Two sisters who, after spending time in a mental institution, return to the home of their father and cruel stepmother. Once there, in addition to dealing with their stepmother’s obsessive and unbalanced ways, an interfering ghost also affects their recovery.
A Tale of Two Sisters is a film which revolves around a number of revelatory twists. As such it is integral that the film both effectively masks these twists and gives us a reason to care when it happens. Unfortunately that is not the case here. A Tale of Two Sisters is, for the most part, an empty experience that never truly shocks.
It would be hard to describe the plot of A Tale of Two Sisters as a large portion of the information we need it is omitted. To begin with al we know is that two sisters have come to their fathers house to live with him and his controlling wife. Not much else is disclosed until the twists start coming. The problem with this is that we are never given a reason to care about the characters. One of the sisters Bae Soo-mi (Lim Su-jeong) holds a grudge against her father, but it is never made clear exactly why. The result is that she comes off as just another angsty teenager, not exactly one of the most endearing traits.
This lack of information makes a twist inevitable. As an audience we know they are coming, and though they may be unpredictable, the inevitability means their effect is dampened. Even worse, once all the revelations have come, there is nowhere left for the film to go. This is because we don’t care about the characters, who are all one-dimensional, some of whom have no motivation for their action. It seems as though the twists were the basis of making the film, and all of the other elements were hastily added in to make it a feature length film.
The film has one redeeming feature in the horror elements of the story. The ideas aren’t exactly original. The creepy girl with long dark hair about her face has been seen in many a horror in recent times, and certainly the sound design in these scenes, and some of the imagery, owes a lot to David Lynch. Still these scenes are very effective at what they do. They ratchet up the tension perfectly and effectively to set the audience on edge. In one scene Soo-mi wakes up next to her sister to find the dark haired girl bearing down upon her. This scene effectively makes a seemingly safe scenario turn horrifying. Unfortunately these sequences are few and far between, and interspersed with some rather uninteresting drama. These scenes would no doubt have been more effective if we cared about the characters at threat.
A Tale of Two Sisters is a confusing film. Even after the final revelation it is still unclear what the significance of certain scenes are. In retrospect some scenes are rendered completely pointless and meaningless by the film various revelations. Maybe it is a film that would lend itself to repeated viewing. But when the first viewing is so uninteresting, there is no motivation to go back and endure the experience again.