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A Tale of Two Sisters

Poster for A Tale of Two Sisters
Hangul 장화,홍련
Hanja 薔花,紅蓮
RR Janghwa, Hongryeon
MR Changhwa, Hongnyŏn
Directed by Kim Ji-woon
Written by Kim Ji-woon
Starring Im Soo Jung
Moon Geun-young
Yeom Jeong-ah
Kim Kap-su
Music by Lee Byung-woo
Cinematography Lee Mo-Gae
Editing by Go Im-pyo
Distributed by Cineclick Asia
Big Blue Film
Release date(s) June 13, 2003
Running time 115 minutes
Language Korean
Gross revenue $72,541 (US only)[1]

A Tale of Two Sisters (장화, 홍련 Janghwa, Hongryeon literally 'Rose Flower, Red Lotus') is a 2003 South Korean psychological horror film by Kim Ji-woon. The film is inspired by a Joseon Dynasty folktale entitled "Janghwa Hongreyon-jon", which has been adapted to film several times.

A Tale of Two Sisters opened to very positive critical review and won Best Picture at the 2004 International Fantasy Film Awards (Fantasporto).[2] It is both the highest-grossing Korean horror film and the first to be screened in American theatres[3]. It grossed $72,541 in the US.[1] An American remake called The Uninvited starring Emily Browning and Arielle Kebbel as the sisters opened in 2009.



The film begins with a girl named Su-Mi being brought to a psychiatrist by a nurse. The girl remains unresponsive despite the psychiatrist's questioning, until he shows her a picture of her and her family. Su-Mi is eventually brought home by her father (Moo-Hyeon) along with her timid sister, Su-Yeong, where they are met by their difficult stepmother (Eun-Joo).

That night Su-Yeong awakens from her sleep to find somebody entering her room and she flees to her sister's room in terror. Su-Mi promises Su-Yeong that she will always be there for her, and they fall asleep.

Su-Mi awakens after a nightmare to find that Su-Yeong has begun her period, as has her stepmother, on the very same day. The girls look at some old photos, which reveal that Eun-Joo was a doctor and a coworker of their father. Su-Mi sees bruises on Su-Yeong's arms and accuses Eun-Joo.

At dinner with guests—Sun-Kyu (Eun-Joo's brother) and his wife—Eun-Joo acts strangely. During dinner, Sun-Kyu's wife begins to choke and convulse on the floor.

Eun-Joo insists that strange events have become frequent since Su-Mi and Su-Yeong returned. Her suspicions are only intensified after her pet bird is slain and found in Su-Yeong's bed. She goes into a rage and locks Su-Yeong in the wardrobe, and after Su-Yeong is freed the father asks Su-Mi why she is making trouble. She insists that the stepmother harasses Su-Yeong, locking her in the closet, her father informs her that Su-Yeong is dead, and that she is not getting better. Su-Mi wakes to find her sister missing and believes she sees her stepmother dragging around a bloody bag through the corridors of the house, and beating it. Su-Mi runs to the kitchen to get a knife to free her sister, but Eun-Joo attempts to stop her by splashing boiling water from the kettle onto her. A fight ensues and Su-Mi is rendered unconscious and dragged away.

The father returns home, having left earlier, to find an injured Su-Mi, however all evidence is suspiciously gone as are the stepmother and bag. The scene shifts, Su-Mi is now the stepmother. She looks up in surprise, and the camera rotates to show the real stepmother, standing in the door way, looking sympathetic. When the camera turns around again, Su-Mi is back where she was. She takes the pills.

It is revealed, that all along Su-Yeong really has been dead, and Su-Mi was acting as the stepmother and sister because of a severe multiple personality disorder she suffers from and thus she was the guest at dinner who suffered a convulsion, was hugging herself that night, had the nightmare and was beating the bag (which had a bloodied doll in it).

Sun Mi than flashes back to a time when Eun-Joo was a live-in nurse caring for the girls' sick mother. The girls sense that Eun-Joo and their father are flirting. Su-Mi displays her disapproval toward Eun-Joo, who in-turn takes her anger out on Su-Yeong. Su-Yeong then returns to her room and collapses onto her bed, in tears. The girl's mother is shown trying to comfort her as she too starts crying.

The flashback ends, and the stepmother sits alone in the quiet home. A noise comes from Su-Yeong's room. When she investigates, the wardrobe opens and from it crawls out the ghost, presumably of either Su-Yeong or her mother. The scene ends ambiguously with a scream.

The flashback picks up again from when Su-Yeong had fallen asleep, with her waking up and discovering her dead mother, who had died of an overdose, in her wardrobe. She shakes the body, trying to wake her mother up, and accidentally pulls the wardrobe down on top of herself.

Various people in the house hear the bang but only Eun-Joo (the nurse and future stepmother) goes to investigate. She discovers Su-Yeong screaming for help and attempting to claw at the wardrobe. Eun-Joo leaves rather than helping Su-Yeong, but then changes her mind and heads back for the scene. En route, she passes Su-Mi coming out of her room to investigate the noise. The sight of Eun-Joo angers Su-Mi. She forgets about the noise and starts disparaging Eun-Joo, who responds by not mentioning Su-Yeong's plight to Su-Mi, and tells the hostile Su-Mi that she will regret the moment. Su-mi angrily marches out of the house, passing her father who comes back to investigate the noise. The father assumes that the noise was Su-Mi's and does not enter the house.

The scene switches back to Su-Yeong crying out for Su-Mi's help. Outside the house Su-Mi turns back long enough to exchange angry stares with her stepmother on the balcony. The stepmother goes inside and Su-Mi turns once more from the house. The film ends as Su-Mi walks away from the house unaware of her dead mother and dying sister.



In the original Korean Folktale "Janghwa Hongreyon-jon", the sisters' names are Janghwa and Hongryeon (Rose Flower and Red Lotus). In the film, they are Su-mi and Su-yeon (still mean Rose and Lotus).

Im Su-jeong (Su-mi) originally auditioned for the role of Su-yeon (played by Moon Geun-young).

Kim Ji-woon originally wanted Jun Ji-hyun to play Su-mi, but she refused it because she thought the script was too scary. Ironically, her next film was an unrelated horror film, The Uninvited.


With a limited American release starting December 3, 2004, A Tale of Two Sisters garnered very positive reviews, with a 87% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[4] Meanwhile, Metacritic scored the film 65 out of 100, meaning Generally Favorable Reviews from 19 critics.[5]

Kevin Thomas of Los Angeles Times described A Tale of Two Sisters as "a triumph of stylish, darkly absurdist horror that even manages to strike a chord of Shakespearean tragedy – and evokes a sense of wonder anew at all the terrible things people do to themselves and each other."[6]

A Tale of Two Sisters won Best Picture at 2004 International Fantasy Film Awards (Fantasporto).[2]


DreamWorks announced the two lead actresses on June 28, with Emily Browning as Anna Ivers (Su-mi), and Arielle Kebbel as Alex Ivers (Su-yeon). Although originally titled A Tale of Two Sisters like the original film, it was later renamed as The Uninvited.

See also


External links

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