The most luxurious launch of K-horror yet, Kim Ji-woon's moody chiller begins with the young titular sisters being brought to live with a high-strung, resentful stepmother and their distracted father in an opulent lakeside mansion cluttered with antiques and mysterious closets. Never before has the space beneath an old-fashioned kitchen sink been quite so forbidding, although the movie's trump moment has more to do with considering what surreal absurdity could sneak out from under a battered phantom's stained slip. But the spiritual disconjunctions aren't terribly simple: The question of who is haunting the house quickly becomes secondary to determining which of the four protagonists is certifiably mad, who will get sloppily murdered, and who is already a ghost. Like the best of the current cycle of revisionist Asian gothicas, Kim's film plays ping-pong with perception and time and makes it look easy. Having something grisly happen in a room unbeknownst to us and then be revisited by a single traumatized witness is a refreshing kind of shock-whammy. Beyond that, it may be a matter of personal taste whether by this point you consider the girl-ghost-with-a-face-covered-with-filthy-black-hair trope an iconic creep-out or overused shorthand. Either way, it's all monstrously effective ookiness, with crepuscular cinematography (by the Hollywood-destined Lee Mo-gae) that suggests a nightmare endured from inside a suffocating velvet pillowcase. In fact, the movie may be too lovely, too aestheticized, to leave much of a lingering bruise, but as a ripe, almost Victorian-tinged contemplation of desperate sisterly devotion, it can be harrowing. The DVD comes jammed with alternate scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, and sundry Easter eggs.
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