Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bald Mountain Night 3: A Tale of Two Sisters

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season.

As a lifelong follower of the cinema of Japan and Hong Kong, I thought it appropriate that I inject some Asian horror movies into my queue for this month of terror. My relationship to the horror output of the Orient has been minimal, limited to the time I saw The Ring on opening night and humiliated myself in front of all my friends my spending most of the movie with my ears plugged, eyes closed, and hoody drawn in as tight as it could go and the time my friends and I watched The Grudge and spent the entire time riffing in a Kim Jong-il voice. "Herro? Is the Gurudge!" Basically, remakes only so far.

Today's entry from Korea endured an unremarkable American remake at the far tail end of the J-horror remake craze, 2009(!)'s The Uninvited. A Tale of Two Sisters is my first horror movie from the Korean peninsula, and considering South Korea is having something of a cinematic renaissance right now, with directors such as Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook (more from him later) becoming big deals on the international scene, I figured I should include some of what we'll no doubt one day be referring to as the Korean New Wave on my journey through horror.

A Tale of Two Sisters opens with older sibling Su-Mi coming home from a psych ward after some undisclosed trauma. Her and her sister's mother has died (perhaps the source of her nervous breakdown) and her father has remarried. The new family matriarch is that strange combination of Cinderella's Stepmother and Stepford Wife, and the sisters develop a great dislike, especially as her behavior become more and more sinister. However, it appears that the new stepmom might be the least of the sisters' problems as their house appears to be haunted by a malevolent spirit: mother?

Asia seems to have its own particular language and semiotics for scary stories; they're big fans of female ghosts with hair in their face as anyone who has seen The Ring or Ringu among others will attest. That being said, this new "language of horror" as one might call it is very effective, perhaps because it is so foreign. That combined with the fact that everyone in this movie speaks Korean and doesn't physically resemble my caucasoid self made me feel even more out of my element.

Two Sisters proves that while Things That Go Bump In The Night are scary, what really terrifies us most can be things like moving on, adjusting to new people joining our families, and growing up. But creepy ghosts work too.

But was it scary? Dear god, yes. Putting creepy boogeywomen in closets and under beds really messed me up. Watching this by myself in the middle of the night was either the best or worst idea I've ever had.

Final Verdict: 67 Congos