Year Released: 2004
Directed by: Kim Jee-Woon
Starring: Lim Sujeong, Mun Geunyeong, Yum Jung-ah, Kim Kap-su
(Not Rated, 114 min.)
"All that we see or seem Is but a dream within a dream." Edgar Allan Poe
A Tales of Two Sisters is an Edgar Allan Poe ghost story as Ingmar Bergman might have told it. Or less charitably, it seems the work of a precocious teenager who manages to fill it chock full of frightening images –ghostly apparitions and life-like nightmares that spew you awake in a heart pounding sweat—but isn’t particularly mindful about sewing it all together with a cord of logic.
The wicked stepmother and apathetic father could be almost be out of “Hansel and Gretel,” but it is the finely furnished lake house rather than the woods that fills us with loneliness and dread here. And the children are locked in, not out.
When the two young sisters arrive at the idyllic country house after a long absence, their stepmother tries to smooth over past tensions with a fancy dinner. But no one is buying it – except the father who cleans his plate and compliments his wife’s cooking with a dutiful lack of enthusiasm.
Then comes the night and the things that go bump in it. No one in the family appears to get any sleep, what with the pale black-haired phantom that has become a given in Asian horror floating through assorted bedrooms, with Daddy leaving his conjugal bed to sleep on his study sofa, and stepmother and elder daughter having a stand off over whether to wake him or not.
The girls are straightforward in their seething contempt for StepMommie Dearest, while she hides her loathing under a facade of icy politeness and double-edged inquiries about their health. When the lakeside cottage is just about as calming as a weekend at Loch Ness, Mom decides to bring her cooking talents to the rescue once again, and another command performance dinner party is launched with Daddy’s younger brother and his nervous bride as the put upon guests.
Nightmares in the bedroom cannot compete with this dining disaster, and the young bride’s fevered brain recalls something from under the sink that becomes the film’s most haunting image.
We then lurch forward in a protracted series of violent seizures that promise some sort of resolution, but only take us part way there. Supposedly all the graphic gore and ghostly visitations make sense in the end, as many gushing critics acclaim. Maybe this new crop of young reviewers are brighter than I am, or perhaps they’re most used to playing without any rules.
I mean when I grew up, there were definite rules about everything from courtship to storytelling. Even our horror movies had some rules, which were more or less sacrosanct. You pound the wooden stake in Bela Lugosi’s heart and he’s a goner until the sequel. A silver bullet kept the werewolves at bay, and a little water melted the wicked witch vexing Oz’s munchkins. Edgar Allan Poe might throw in a mad narrator or two, but we were pretty sure before the end of the first page we were dealing with someone who’d gone over the edge quite some time ago.
Yes, Bruce Willis deceived us quite a bit longer ins The Sixth Sense, but that movie was so carefully crafted that the shocking ending made everyone want to watch it all over again just to see how they’d been led astray with their eyes wide open. That second time through every detail, every film image fit the alternate interpretation. Not so with A Tale of Two Sisters.
Its false clues and red herrings do not disappear with the final director-magician’s twist of the script. Instead he pulls bloody rabbit after bloody rabbit from his mad hatter’s black felt.
Maybe you can be successful with your Korean cuisine in a way the stepmother could not. I mean, your humble abode may not be as opulent as her gilded cage, but yours is free of gothic gore and ghostly guests, I presume. And you do not have an nightmares under your sink, That does tend to distract, I think.
Celebrate the last chapter of the summer grilling season as you enjoy this Korean version of an old favorite.
Korean Style Grilled Chicken
- 1/4 cup Sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup Corn oil
- 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
- 1/4 cup Dark Corn Syrup (Karo)
- 1 ea Small onion, sliced
- 1 ea Clove garlic, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon Pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon Ginger, ground
- 1 ea Broiler-Fryer Chicken (cut into pieces)
In a shallow baking dish stir together the first eight ingredients.
Add chicken, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate, turning once, at least three hours.
Grill over low coals, turning and basting frequently, about 50 minutes.
Recipe Source: Best Barbecue Recipes by Mildred Fischer