Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010: Janghwa, Hongryeon (A Tale Of Two Sisters, 2003)

It’s time for Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010 to travel to South Korea, and I hear they get a wee bit crazy over there!

Screenplay By: Jee-woon Kim
Directed By: Jee-woon Kim

A trio of definitions if you will indulge me,

psychological (sī’kə-lŏj’ĭ-kəl)
1. – Of or relating to psychology.
2. – Of, relating to, or arising from the mind or emotions.
3. – Influencing or intended to influence the mind or emotions.


horror (ˈhɒrə)
— n
1. – extreme fear; terror; dread
2. – intense loathing; hatred
3. – ( often plural ) a thing or person causing fear, loathing, etc
4. – ( modifier ) having a frightening subject, esp a supernatural one: a horror film

and finally,

artistry (ˈɑːtɪstrɪ)
— n
1. – artistic workmanship, ability, or quality
2. – artistic pursuits
3. – great skill

When those three definitions, or three words with multiple definitions if you want to get all semantic like on me, converge together they can produce greatness. You know when you are watching a film where all three words are present, you know it in your very bones. It took me about thirty seconds to pick up on the psychological tones of Janghwa, Hongryeon, another two minutes to be wowed by the artistry and a good ten or so minutes for the horror to start punching me in the gut. I knew I was watching a great film before all three words were present, but once they were present I entered into a transfixed state where I could not for the life of me take my mind off of this movie and its story.

Great psychological films make you think, but more than that they make you question yourself. It’s my belief that in a great psychological film you should be constantly questioning if your take on the film is correct. It’s not a matter of twists and turns, but of quality film making presenting my brain with many avenues to go down. Janghwa, Hongryeon didn’t just present my brain with a few different avenues, it presented me with a whole interstate highway system for my brain to choose from. Every time I thought I had something figured out a character would commit an action that left me questioning what I had intuited. But, I’m not talking about trying to play detective and figure out the movie. Oh no, that would take away from the experience of Janghwa, Hongryeon greatly I think. Just go along for the ride, the movie will guide you in all the myriad directions you could ever find in any investigation.

Horror is an interesting thing for me. As I’ve told you, my faithful readers, numerous times, I don’t get scared. Because of that I never mean scary when I use the word horror. I am always speaking to the suspense of the film, and Janghwa, Hongryeon is dripping with suspense. It’s not normal suspense though, Janghwa, Hongryeon is filled with the suspense of dread. Something is going to happen, that is how every second of Janghwa, Hongryeon feels. Janghwa, Hongryeon is a pressure cooker of a movie, ratcheting up the dread to unbearable levels. The denouement is actually rather quiet, but this isn’t a problem, because the sense of suspenseful dread has been built so much that all the audience should need is that one small moment of release where everything comes to a head.

Artistry in the case of Janghwa, Hongryeon could refer to the wonderful acting, writing or score, but I’m going to focus on the cinematography of Mo-gae Lee and the direction of Jee-woon Kim. Janghwa, Hongryeon isn’t a moving picture, it is a moving portrait. The wallpapers found inside the house of Bae family anchor the film. Often they are ugly, but the camera frames them so that they are mesmerizing and beautiful. It’s like that rug that ties the room together, on their own the wallpapers we see aren’t worth much, but Lee and Kim use them to frame the picture in lush fashion. Janghwa, Hongryeon has a meticulously crafted look to it, and this works wonders to contrast to the chaotic life of the Bae family. As the film slowly builds up a sense of dread Lee and Kim are always using composition and positioning within the frame to mirror the building dread. Janghwa, Hongryeon is my first exposure to either Lee or Kim, and needless to say I can’t wait to be exposed to more of their work.

The more I delve into Korean, South Korean to be specific, cinema the more I enjoy what I see. Janghwa, Hongryeon is yet another in a long line of South Korean pictures that have captured and held my attention. It builds slowly, and with an intensity that can make or break a horror film. The more I think about it the more Janghwa, Hongryeon reminds me of the work of Alfred Hitchcock, just with more blood and way less humor. So yeah, maybe not Hitchcock at all, what the fuck do I know. Okay, I’m rambling now, but the one thing you need to remember is that I was captivated by Janghwa, Hongryeon, deep in my bones I was captivated by this movie, yo!




7 responses to “Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010: Janghwa, Hongryeon (A Tale Of Two Sisters, 2003)

  1. Sounds amazing. I’m watching it this weekend.

  2. Hope you enjoy it Edgar. 🙂

  3. Hmm. I’m trying to find a copy on the net and not much is available. I’m sure I’ll find something, somewhere, but I might not watch the film this weekend. I do want to eventually check it out though, preferably in time for Halloween.

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  7. Edgar, hopefully you were able to get to this one at some point.

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