Wicked stepmothers don't come any more evil -- and fingernails don't rip off any bloodier -- than in this Korean psychological horror tale from the director of The Quiet Family and The Foul King. Returning from an unexplained hospitalization, the sisters Sumi and Suyeong face a long recovery in the countryside, but their young, icily beautiful stepmother Eunjee seems incapable of soothing their paranoia. With the maternal instincts of Mommie Dearest and an attitude halfway between neurotic and psychotic, Eunjee may not be a very good new mother, but she gets even worse once the sisters' old one makes a surprise appearance -- from beyond the grave. To say any more would ruin the surprises, but suffice it to say all the sinking fears of childhood -- that your sunny, warm home has suddenly grown cold, that your parents are whispering strangely in another room, and that your closet holds a darkness beyond evil, to which you will soon be shoved, are revisited and rekindled. Like The Shining and The Others, A Tale of Two Sisters proves that the most memorable horrors are those that creep up slowly, not in darkness, but in the blandness of everyday light; more terrifyingly, once there they are never explained, but left to linger in the mind. Based on a Korean folk tale, and boasting a chillingly realized, monstrous performance by Yeom Jeong-ah as the evil stepmother, the film became one of the year's biggest hits in Korea, prompting Dreamworks to snap it up for an American remake.
Kim Jee-woon was born in Seoul in 1964 and began his career as a stage actor and director. He moved on to screenwriting, winning best screenplay for Wonderful Seasons at Korea's 1997 Premiere Scenario contest. In the same year, The Quiet Family won the best screenplay prize at the first Cine21 Scenario Public Subscription Contest. It became his directorial debut, winning the Best Film Award at the Portugal Fantasporto Film Festival. He followed as writer and director of the box office sensation The Foul King (2000), which sealed Kim's reputation as one of Korea's leading directors. An official entry at the International Film Festivals of Toronto, Berlin, and Hong Kong, the film enjoyed commercial crossover success in Japan and Hong Kong. He also completed the short Coming Out (2000), as part of an omnibus movie broadcast over the Internet. Kim's latest project, Memories (2002), is the Korean segment of the film Three.