I enjoy a good horror movie, and have looked forward to this follow-up to The Good, The Bad and The Weird. It’s a well-shot cops-vs-serial-killers story. But beginning with the first murder, I got the increasing feeling that this would be less an enjoyably thrilling horror flick than a torturous bit of nastiness.

Then I got another steadily increasing feeling, that of a massive migraine which would knock out my ability to function for the rest of the day and keep me home from work the following day from its after-effects. So I spent a half hour of this movie willing myself not to have a migraine, hoping maybe at least I could finish the movie before it got too bad, taking breaks, sitting in dark rooms, then returning. Finally I figured it’s a bad movie and there’s nothing I can do to help myself anyway, so I might as well watch the second half under the sensory-distorting influence of a brain-crushing headache. Better to try and enjoy the glowing HD picture of a stylish slasher than sit bored and useless in the bedroom all evening.

Anyway, movie plays like a sequel to Se7en – 20 minutes in, a detective sees his wife’s head in a cardboard box. Her dad is in charge of the violent crime unit, and you’d think he’d be into solving this particular crime, but it’s the obsessed husband (Byung-hun Lee, The Bad in Good/Bad/Weird) who gets results, by going on an illegal rampage against all the lead suspects, getting into the killer’s head and swearing to torture him in return. Halfway through he finds the guy (Min-sik Choi, star of Oldboy), a school bus driver, and tracks him, beating the shit out of him every couple of scenes, finally beheading the guy in front of his estranged family. It’s a dark and torturous movie, which was extremely difficult for me to sit through, though that’s not completely the movie’s fault.

The original plan (now abandoned, along with all other plans) was to specifically catch up on acclaimed horror movies from the last decade, nothing earlier, which I’d missed so far – and A Tale of Two Sisters topped the list. I watched the well-regarded original by Ji-woon Kim (The Good, the Bad & the Weird), not the Canadian remake (retitled The Uninvited) nor the 80’s movie based on the poetry of Charlie Sheen (I am not making this up).

Firstly, who decides how Korean names are written in English? Su-yeon sounds like “Cheh-neh” to me. Secondly, I saw the ending coming from the very first scene (girl alone in an asylum tells story about herself and her sister = she never had a sister) but I still liked it plenty.

How many sisters:

Of the two sisters, Su-mi (Su-jeong Lim, above with the cute hat – star of I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK, another movie where she is deluded in an asylum) is the more outgoing, and Su-yeon is withdrawn and afraid and has a bad haircut. They’re off at the summer vacation house with loving father and evil stepmom (Jung-ah Yum, star of the thriller H). Actually stepmom seems very nice. It’s hard to tell who is evil, and what exactly is happening, since the movie is full of things that happen which did not actually happen. Su-yeon sees ghostly things and has bad dreams, and everyone worries about a certain bedroom closet, and a guest who comes for dinner has a fit and sees a ghost, and there are birdies in the movie so of course they get killed (why else put birdies in a horror film?).

Eventually it’s clear that Su-yeon died when the bedroom closet fell on her after she found her mom dead inside, and Su-mi is having fantasies that her sister is still around. I can’t tell if Su-mi actually has a bloody all-out fight with her stepmom throughout the entire house or if that was part of the fantasy too. Anyway, stylish flick, excellently made, and totally enjoyable even if I apparently would have to watch again to make sense out of it all.

I don’t know why I sat down with a Korean spaghetti-western-influenced comic action flick from the director of A Tale of Two Sisters after the disappointment of Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django, but I’m glad I did. This was a hot pile of fun, more true in spirit to its source material than the Miike but plenty contemporary in its staging of action. Some of the most exciting (fast-cut yet spatially-coherent) editing I’ve seen in a while, certainly better than in Star Trek or Fist of Legend and great characters (the prototype super-cool good guy and super-evil bad guy are here, but the hero is an amoral thief, the comic-relief character) excuse the failure of the story to ever come together.

Action takes place in Manchuria (so truly in “the west” from Korea). Unlike Sukiyaki but like the Leone flicks, there are practically no women. A prostitute here, someone’s aged aunt there, but the wild west is a man’s world. And wild it is – ruthless and brutal, killing hundreds without hesitation, but maybe in reference to the old westerns it avoids lingering on dead bodies or showing grievous wounds, so it’s ultraviolent but more in the Sam Peckinpah body-count manner than in modern Tokyo Gore Police fashion.


Kang-ho Song, star of The Host, is our thief, and it’s great to see him playing a more lively soul than the dimwitted Host hero. The “Good” bounty hunter, fastest draw in the west, is secretly out for revenge on the goth-haired bad guy (Byung-hun Lee, star of Chan-wook Park’s segment of Three Extremes and soon to play Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe). A couple older guys and their men are tracking these three, but I never figured out who they are exactly, following after a mythical treasure map in the thief’s possession, and everyone is being followed by the Japanese army (Japan occupied Korea from pre-WWI through WWII). Everybody seems to be in a different underground independence movement, and the map has political ramifications that I didn’t puzzle out.


The bad guy dies in the end, as he would have to, in a brutal shootout with the good guy… but not before the movie strangely decides to reveal our comic thief’s past life as a finger-snatching serial killer. So the chase continues in epilogue with the bounty hunter after him. Strange choice, like at the end of For a Few Dollars More suddenly declaring Clint Eastwood is a wanted criminal in another state, Lee Van Cleef chasing him into the sunset with guns blazing.


Like any Leone movie it has its slow drawn-out character parts, but the movie seems well aware of what it’s doing with pacing and editing, if not story – and maybe I’ll figure that out when I see it again. Jimmy, we should’ve watched this one instead.