January 12, 2005

K-Horror Needs A Haircut

As it seems that Japanese horror is all the rage these days, Seattle Maggie would like to take this opportunity to point out that Koreans can be scary, too. We’ve got the hottest food, the kicky-est martial arts, and the most bad ass grannies on the planet (you try getting on an elevator in a Seoul bargain basement – those little old ladies will plow right over you with their push walkers). And we don’t need our Homegirl Margaret Cho to get us started on our moms. So, move over J-Horror, and bring on the K-Horror! When we heard that the Varsity was showing A Tale of Two Sisters, we hustled our kim-chee lovin’ buns over to catch a screening. If you chose to click on the link to the movie on the Tartan Films website, you may be surprised to hear that we survived the screening with our hearts un-shredded and our eyeballs un-seared. We were also treated to a few truly creepy moments, an Ah-Ha! plot twist and some genuine bittersweet emotion that is often lacking in horror films.

A Tale of Two Sisters.jpg Sisters Su-Mi and Su-Yeon have returned from an unspecified stay at the hospital to their father’s remote house in the countryside, only to greeted by their aggressively cheery stepmother. There are some hints that things are amiss: the house presses in on the sisters with claustrophobic Victorian patterns; their father is full of nervous silence; their mother is mysteriously absent, presumed dead; their stepmother careens from manic to depressive at the drop of a hat. As the dark and shadowy house begins to produce more solid horrors, the sisters cling to each other as the only remaining bastions of trust and hope. When the final secret is revealed, it is the sisters’ love that remains the ultimate tragedy, tainted with unspoken regret, traced in the single tear on a young girl’s cheek.

It’s official: Seattle Maggie is putting our foot down about twitchy female apparitions with the long, tangled hair. Enough, already! We’ve seen it so many times before that it is more likely to make us shrug rather than send a shiver up our spines. Another appearance of a disheveled black wig, and we’re already bored. But we did like the nerve-tingling mood of the A Tale of Two Sisters, especially the intense wallpaper prints and aggressively patterned fabrics that brought to mind Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s crazy-making short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Also, the narrative itself was a strong player – even if the horror element was removed, the story would stand well on its own, plying the themes of family, death and guilt into a coherent story line. We did feel that the movie started out a little slow for our tastes (as evidenced by Boyfriend Todd leaning over halfway through and whispering, “You got some ‘splaining to do”) but it managed to wrap up in a satisfying rush to the finish (BT, as the credits roll: “Oh. Never mind.”)

This is not director Ji-woon Kim’s first foray into horror; we were tickled to recognize his work from the horror trilogy Three, in the segment entitled “Memories”. His other film, The Foul King, the story of a bank clerk turned professional wrestler, was not in the horror genre, but did turn out to be an underground favorite at the 2001 Seattle International Film Festival. We look forward to more horror films from Kim and our other Korean brethren, but please – salons exist for a reason. All those ghouly ladies need a trim.

Posted by seattle maggie at January 12, 2005 7:32 AM