Korror: A Sisterly Bond

During winter break, I watched some good Asian movies. Specifically, these two Korean horror movies are top-notch: A Tale of Two Sisters and Red Shoes.

1) A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), aka 장화, 홍련 Janghwa, Hongryeon – literally ‘Rose Flower, Red Lotus’ (In Hanja, 薔花,紅蓮 Qiang Hua, Hong Lian)

Directed by Kim Ji-woon

Im Soo-jung as Su-mi

Moon Geun-young as Su-yeon

It’s one of those confusing psychological thriller movies; Asian directors tend to mess with the mind like that. The story begins with a quiet, disturbed girl at the psychiatrist. When shown a picture of her family, she begins to show signs of life. Next, the scene pans to two loving sisters arriving at home, a calm place in the countryside. Inside, the scenery changes. Dark, morbid, and ominous, the sisters are greeted their beautiful, but cold step-mother Eun-joo.

Evil in the Middle

Su-mi is plucky. She is fierce and outspoken, always fighting hard against Eun-joo and protecting her younger sister from mistreatment. Their father is an uncaring, stoic man; we wonder why he fails to be a happy, affectionate father to his two girls.

As the story unfolds, we delve into the twisted family situation. In one confusing flashback, we see mother and daughter (Su-yeon) hold each other, crying in sadness. Downstairs, Eun-joo, back then a nurse who cared for the girls’ sick mother, openly flirts with their father, a physician. No wonder the girls hate their step-mother and father so much. To have an open affair in front of the wife and kids, that is rather low and disheartening.

Things are not as we expect. Unhappy spirits haunt the living, in their minds and the physical world. Madness, regrets, and melancholy shake the girls’ lives upside down.  By the end of the movie, the pieces fall together, and the audience is left with feelings of heartache and confusion. We learn about Su-yeon’s unfortunate fate and Su-mi’s ensuing pain and psychiatric problem.

There’s an American version of this movie called The Uninvited (2009). Judging by past American remakes of classic Asian horror movies, I doubt this is as good.

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