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:: A Tale of Two Sisters (Janghwa, Hongryeon)

New to Australian cinema, the 2003 Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters is next in the wave of eastern horror flicks after The Ring and The Grudge. Based on a Korean fairy tale, it focuses on two sisters who return to their family home after an unexplained absence. They are greeted by their neurotic step-mother and their emotionally absent father. Strange (and scary) things start happening to all the women in the house while the father remains oblivious. Things come to a violent head with their step-mother and the mystery begins to unfold.

Lush and stylish, the direction is beautiful, but the subtlety might not give the scare expected by Western audiences. Rather than short, sharp shocks there's a creepiness that works insidiously to create an engaging sensory experience. There are some gorgeous moments that will stay with you, making it by far one of the better films in the genre, but this is no Scream, nor is it as frightening as The Ring. This could be because the jerky, black-haired apparitions of this genre are losing some of their shock-value, but it's also because this particular film strives for something more than just scares.

Most of the film seems more like an eerie suspense thriller than a horror. In fact if it weren‘t for the odd ghostly figure this could be a winning thriller. There's intense tension and the mystery is elusive and twisting right to the end. This is sure to be a 'Carrie’ for horror fans, a prevailing classic. The film is well-rounded and watchable with great acting, good characters and plot development.

If you want a shock-a minute screamer, maybe wait for the American version which is sure to come. If you want something a bit more stylish see this well-crafted original.