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Replay Reel: A Tale of Two Sisters

In all my years of film watching, I have never watched a psychological horror film that made me feel scared and confused at the same time. Now I've watched a plethora of wonderful horror films—The Grudge, The Ring, The Descent, One Missed CallDrag Me to Hell, and, most recently, A Cure for Wellness—and yet most of them have yet to struck a chord with me. That was the case, until I watched A Tale of Two Sisters back in 2014. Recently, I've revisited the film to check out the plot and the progression of events, and it sure did leave me with a newfound appreciation for the movie.

Wanting to look back at the some of my favorite movies, I've decided to come up with a new series—Replay Reel. Replay Reel posts are what the title suggests, it's a "replay" of movies I've watched and, obviously, a review of them. This will be my "first-ever" movie review in a long time, so please do forgive me if I don't give the film the literary justice it deserves. Oh, and of course, SPOILERS AHEAD.

Short Plot

The plot generally centers around this girl who was just recently released from some kind of hospital, Su-mi. She and her sister, Su-yeon, then go back to their provincial home, at a secluded and lonely-looking house. The movie starts with the girls exploring the land around their house, dipping their feet at a nearby river or lake, and being called in the house.

Su-mi and Su-yeon running off into the distance.

Whilst inside, they are introduced to their stepmother Eun-joo. In their first introduction, Eun-joo acts (or tries to act) nice toward the girls, asking them questions like if they are feeling better, and all that. They brush her off, and make no notice of her advancements to get closer towards them. That same day, they are informed of their uncle visiting them tomorrow. They have a slightly heated argument at dinnertime, which leaves Su-mi storming upstairs and Su-yeon following afterwards.

The creepy part of the movie starts when they all start to sleep. As Su-yeon was sleeping, she hears weird running noises and it wakes her up. She looks toward the door and, little by little, it's starting to open by itself. A hand slowly emerges from the edge of the door and scares Su-yeon. She hides herself in her blanket, only for her blanket to be slightly opened and eventually she runs to Su-mi's room because she got scared.

Su-yeon then tells about someone entering her room to Su-mi and she decides to check the rest of the house alone. She finds her dad sleeping alone in another room and covers him up with a blanket, and she begins to have a small confrontation with her stepmother Eun-joo. After which, she goes back to her room and cuddles Su-yeon, and she assures her that she's always there for her and the two begin to sleep.

The morning afterwards, her dad slowly awakes and Su-mi starts to have convulsions from a bad dream. In her dream, she sees her mom in a forest and some kind of hand knocking on the floor, and blood on her own hand. She wakes up from that dream only to see a head bob up and down at the lower part of their bed. Obviously, this scares Su-mi but she doesn't say anything and continues to watch this shadowy figure move around. The ghost then notices she's being watched and slowly turns around and stands up.

The ghost Su-mi sees, which is apparently their mother.

The ghost slowly levitates toward Su-mi's and she just lies there scared. The ghost then stands on top of Su-mi and blood soon runs down the ghost's right thigh. Soon, she sees a hand crawl down the ghost's thigh and the ghost gets closer to Su-mi, and this eventually awakes her back to reality.

She then wakes up to find her dad asking for something and sees blood on the bed. It's quickly revealed that Su-yeon has her period and she decides to go to Eun-joo's room to get some pads, or something. Eun-joo wakes up, seeing Su-mi take some pads, and quickly adds that it's weird that Eun-joo and Su-yeon have their period start on the same day.

Later that day, Su-yeon goes wandering off someplace and finds a weird box inside a shed out in the woods. She goes home to look inside the box and it is revealed that their stepmother, Eun-joo, was a colleague of their dad, who was then assigned as an in-home nurse for Su-mi and Su-yeon's biological mother.

To cut the plot short and to lessen the spoilers in this post, here is a link to a Wikipedia article about the film's plot, and I highly encourage you to watch the film in its entirety.

Review of A Tale of Two Sisters

When I first watched this movie back in 2014 or so, I really didn't think much of it, although I (kind of) got an understanding of the plot. It really didn't occur to me at the time that the plot had been so intricate, but it's probably because I was too scared to comprehend the plot back then.

Looking back on the movie, I can surely tell that the plot was a wonderful work of a genius. It had never occurred to me that the three girls in the film—Su-mi, Su-yeon, and Eun-joo—were all one person all along—Su-mi. You see, although not explicitly stated in the film, Su-mi suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID), and it was revealed that it was only her and her dad living in that house the entire time.

Now, I'm not sure if the reason of Su-mi's disorder was stated in the film, but I suppose the probable cause of her disorder would be the death of her sister, Su-yeon, and mother on the same day.

What's scary about this movie is that it could be, technically, possible. Think about it, a person suffering from DID could have created all of these events by theirself. Also, the real scary part was the "mindfuck" part at the end of the movie, where it is revealed that Su-mi had been taking on three different roles throughout the movie.

Although the main plot of the movie was thoroughly explained, there were some parts of the movie that weren't properly explained.

One question I have was the "dinner with their uncle" scene. In the last part of that scene, Eun-joo (Su-mi) sees a lone hairclip lying on the floor. She decides to pick it up and take a better look at it, but a ghostly hand soon pops up out of the bottom of the kitchen sink and Eun-joo tries to run away from it. She turns around, only to see a girl in a green dress standing behind her. The scene cuts to the girls' father asking Eun-joo to take some kind of medication (which was revealed to be Su-mi's medication for her DID).

That scene alone was fine and dandy and all, but there was just one problem with it. If Su-mi was playing as Eun-joo, who was the ghost that was under the kitchen sink?

You could pass this off as some kind of weird manifestation by Su-mi's mind, like she did with the ghost of her mother, but she was not the only one who saw this ghost.

In the car ride of her uncle and his wife home, it is revealed that their uncle's wife, who had a seizure earlier, saw a girl under the kitchen sink. The scene then cuts to the wife of their uncle having a seizure and then seeing a girl lying under the kitchen sink. As you can see from the image above, the girl has the same marks as the hand that grabbed Eun-joo's hand as she picked up the hairclip near the kitchen sink.

A morbid hand appears out of the bottom of the kitchen sink and grabs Eun-joo's wrist.

So, who was this ghost? Was it the ghost of the girls' mother? Why did the wife of their uncle see it as well? And why did it haunt Eun-joo? If it was the ghost of the girls' mother, why did it haunt her daughter, Su-mi, who was playing the role of Eun-joo?

I also wonder about what happened to the real Eun-joo at the end of the movie. At the end of the movie, while the real Eun-joo was alone at the girls' home, she hears the same strange running sound that Su-yeon hears at the beginning of the film. She goes to check on it, and she is led to the room where the Su-yeon and the girls' mother had died.

Eun-joo does inside the room and follows this weird foxlike tail that disappears behind a curtain. she then opens the curtain, and the door behind her shuts immediately and the lights go off. She turns around and the door of the closet (the place in which the girls' mother and Su-yeon had died) had mysteriously opened. Eun-joo then finds some kind of cloth protruding out between two mattresses or bedsheets, and pulls it, awakening some kind of spirit (either Su-yeon or the girls' mother). The ghost then haunts Eun-joo and it was implied that the ghost had killed Eun-joo, although it was not explicitly revealed. (Because the camera zooms out of the house and Eun-joo's screams can be heard.

That part always gives me the shivers, because the real Eun-joo was involved and was killed, and it actually happened.. or so you think. You see, it is implied in the movie that Su-mi has the strangest and wildest imagination, as she has conjured up most of the events in the movie by herself. Although, it is not stated if the last part of the movie—the "Eun-joo haunting" part—did actually happen or was another hallucination of Su-mi.

But, all in all, the film was a lovely horror movie. It might take you a couple of re-watches to be able to fully understand it, but, once you do, it hits you quite hard. It's one of those movies that gives you the "yeah, but did it really happen? Or was it all fake?" feel, much similar to the feeling I get when I watched Fight Club or The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

I also love the psychological horror aspect of it. While, of course, this film had its fair share of ghosts and ghouls, it was not the center of the film. The main plot of the film was not about the ghosts inside the house, but rather, the people inside the house—with emphasis on the film's protagonist and antagonist, Su-mi. I'm just glad that this film in particular didn't resolve to cheap jumpscares or weird cuts, unlike the other horror films I've watched.

In conclusion, A Tale of Two Sisters was a wonderful horror film that gets you thinking about the plot, and leaves you wondering what the hell actually happened throughout the film.

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