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A Tale of Two Sisters Written and Directed by Kim Jee-Woon

The Uninvited Written by Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard Directed by The Guard Brothers

Initially I had planned to do a review on 2009’s The Uninvited, however upon starting had discovered that it was based off 2003’s A Tale of Two Sisters. Which came as a surprise as well as a relief as I had been meaning to view the latter but was never able to get around to it. Making for perfect timing and another reason to do a “versus review” previously pinning another two flicks together found Here.

I started out with A tale of Two Sisters which is based on a Korean folktale entitled Janghwa Heungryeonjeon. Opening up to Su-mi (Su-jeong Lim) whose in a hospital being questioned about her family, returning home later with her father (Kap-su Kim) and sister Su-yeon (Geun-Young Moon). Seemingly hesitant to enter the house the sisters enter to face their forceful step-mother (Jung-ah Yum) who announces at dinner that the girl’s uncle would be visiting in the next couple of days. Refusing to see him, Su-mi leave’s the table with an obviously changed demeanor. Later into the night Su-mi has an extremely breathe taking dream that quickly turns into a nightmare. She awakens to find her sister and step-mother menstruating simultaneously which creates a thick tense feeling all throughout the house. The dinner with the uncle and his wife occurs of which the stepmother acts over-the-top and oddly outlandish. Quickly turning into an unsettling situation when the uncle’s wife begins to convulse and upon taken home informs her husband that she saw a little girl underneath the kitchen counter while the incident occurred. The step-mother later seeing the exact same girl, naturally frightened and revealing to her husband of the weird things that had been going on since his girl had returned from the hospital.

The father decides to comfort yet confront Su-mi as to what had been going on, hearing of the blame being put on his wife who had been causing harm to Su-yeon. Distraught and caught off guard, the father tells Su-mi to stop playing around, that she knew Su-yeon was dead. Taken aback by the information Su-mi wakes up the next day to find a trail of blood leading to a bag filled with what she believed to be her sister. Alternating back and forth between reality she realizes what she had perceived as the step-mother and sister were in fact figments of her imagination due to psychosis. The film leaves you waiting up until the last several minutes until actually discovering what happened before Su-mi attended the mental hospital. As well of the tragic truth behind her mother and sister’s death.

I have always preferred a naturalistic score in Horror movies wherein the beauty that is created within the films assist in letting that movie be seen for how particularly creepy it is. It also helps in letting the film envelop its audience by having the majority of its eeriness streaming from the core of the story. In the Korean version your given at least 30 more minutes of screen time while knowing the secret. The American version waits in true form until the last 15 minutes or so as to wrap up with the ending and all is ended well. But the suspense in the former is such a hard thing to obtain whose credit solely goes to the foreign film for a job well done. The acting was superb and I truly believe foreign Horror films are overall better at transferring fear with the willingness to slow things down, sync your heartbeat with that of the speed of the movie and make it just as real for the viewer.

Viewing the American version we find it opening up with Anna (Emily Browning); Sucker Punch and Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events. She seems to be narrating a recurring dream in which she leaves a party to visit her mom and re-living the tragic events of her death. Following a noise and approaching her father’s door but never remembering past that point. Speaking with her therapist she’s left with the advice to “finish what you started,” and pack up. She would be heading home of which she’d been separated from for the past 10 months. Once arriving, she sets off in search of older sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel). After finding her looming around the newly rebuilt guesthouse they spend some time reacquainting. But Anna doesn’t hide the fact of being angry that she was left alonewith their father and soon to be step-mother. Constant vivid hallucinations of her mother interfered with getting to know Rachel (Elizabeth Banks). Though was able to hear her state in the only comfort while working (including her mother) was knowing that they’d soon be deceased. Anna’s old flame Matt (Jesse Moss) persistently tries to get a hold of her, stating his need to tell her of the truth the night her mother passed away. Turning into yet another nightmare when she awakens at the sound of helicopters outside where they discovered Matthew’s body found earlier.

Meanwhile having separate visions throughout the film of a little girl and two young boys that she later connects to a story used in order to blame on her step-mother. However Anna’s father chooses to defend Rachel stating “she wasn’t what the problem was.” She runs off to the sheriff’s office to try and plea her case, entrusting herself into the sheriff believing she has found solace. However awakens to find herself in the hands of Rachel as shes taken home, carried upstairs and once again passes out. This girl needs to get her act together; I know, I was thinking it too. Re-awakens in her bed, dressed at a seemingly later point and finds a trail of blood leading outside to the trash where she finds her step-mother butchered inside with Alex holding the knife stating she did “what had to be done.” Their father comes home demanding to know what Anna had done whilst reality sets in and she comes to the realization that she’s actually the one holding the knife, this whole time her sister Alex having been a hallucination. She had died along with her mother. Her memory begins filling in the blanks helping her remember being angry the night of her mothers death and the trail that was left, recalling the startling discovery that her father had been having an affair during her mother’s illness. Returning back to the mental ward Anna reports to her therapist that she in fact “finished what she started;” the camera directing to her neighbors room with the name Mildred Kemp; the same name that Anna had used in order to frame Rachel.

As far as the acting is concerned, it remains unfortunate that I always seem to side with the authenticity used in the foreign cast than in the American version. Not to take away from the American cast. I wasn’t too fond of the movie Sucker Punch, so I cannot use that as argument for Browning, but she otherwise played the part to its potential. Elizabeth Banks played a role certainly outside her norm but permitted a sly smile upon my face for her surprisingly at times eerie performance. Banks is a great actress though; I am rarely let down and consider her to be one of the funnier actresses in film currently. I honestly don’t know what it is about certain foreign films but I always find goose bumps succeeding more cases than not. What the Korean version had in terror, the American version kept up in the scares and revelation making each a great contribution to the folktale.

Oddly, I found the American version had a bit more fun with the creativity of the story compared to the Korean version. The ending was a bit darker as far as setting the overall tone. Viewing the two films carefully the American version showed clear indications of non-contact between the characters. Whereas in the Korean original the exchanges are so interchangeable that it truly confuses you making you question things entirely more and giving mystery to the foreign film. The discovery at each ending merits its own individual reactions that end clever, thrilling and equally ominous. Overall the Korean version ends up the better paced and vividly spine tingling tale that beyond a doubt delivered a more realistic terror.