The Evil Twin (2007) review
April 11, 2012 1 Comment
THE EVIL TWIN (2007) is a South Korean ghost story set in the Chosŏn Dynasty period (somewhere between 1392 and 1897). Teenage So-yeon (Park Shin-hye) regains consciousness after a 10-year-long coma that was the result of a drowning accident that claimed the life of her twin sister Hyo-jin. Her mother and the entire household are amazed and delighted by her unexpected recovery after so many years, but So-yeon has awakened to find she has no memory of the accident, and few memories of her own childhood or even of her dead sister. Although now generally healthy, she seems more subdued in manner than she used to be, and begins having strange, muddled visions of the drowning and other deaths. This is put down to the extended coma and her need for additional recovery.
Before the accident her village considered So-yeon a most disagreeable child, as she was prone to fits of anger and nastiness and often hurt those around her. She was especially mean to her own twin sister, with whom she fought over a bracelet on that day of the accident. Even her oldest friends feel that she may have been responsible in some way for the death of her twin 10 years ago. So when a series of mysterious “accidents” begin happening immediately following So-yeon’s awakening, the villagers start to suspect that she is behind it all, especially as the people dying are the young friends who had a hand in the childish prank that ended in twin Hyo-jin’s death. Each death occurs when the victim is alone and especially vulnerable, so no one knows that the killer is actually a vindictive dark-haired, white-dressed spirit.
Tensions mount in the small community as the killings increase, and So-yeon struggles with her confused emotions, the jealousy she feels towards her dead and more beloved twin, the suspicions and anger of the villagers, and her difficulty in following her mother’s wish that she become engaged to Hyun-sik (Jae Hee), her sister’s former fiancé. He has reluctantly agreed to go through with the new arrangement, despite the fact that it was her sister whom he was once betrothed and whom he still loves. However So-yeon balks at the idea of marriage when she discovers that her fiancé Hyun-sik cannot see her for herself now and not the nasty child she doesn’t even remember being. When she herself is attacked by the weird ghost woman which no one but the dead have seen, So-yeon really begins to fell that she’s going crazy.
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
It is revealed that the twin who died in the lake 10 years ago was not the “good” Hyo-jin as everyone believes, but the “bad” little So-yeon. In flashbacks we see that their mother rushed to the aid of the drowning girls after they fell into the lake, but being unable to save them both, she chose to rescue only the one she thought was her “good” Hyo-jin. In fact, she saved So-yeon, at the time still wearing her sister’s bracelet. Their mother realized this only after the fact, and with one twin dead and the remaining twin in a coma, she lied to cover her mistake, telling the villagers that Hyo-jin was the one who perished. But when Hyo-jin awoke, the spirit of her dead sister So-yeon came back for revenge on all those involved in her untimely death, and determined to take someone back with her to her underwater grave. In the end, placated by her mother’s self-sacrifice, the long-dead spirit of the real So-yeon disappears under the water, leaving her twin Hyo-jin alive to go on with her life.
Part murder mystery and part mistaken-identity thriller, the plot of THE EVIL TWIN is not very original, but the film does manage to be somewhat effective in the retelling of a traditional ghost story. We’ve seen clones of the longhaired revengeful ghost in East Asian films often enough now to not find her sudden appearance very shocking, so the entertainment in this film comes more from watching how the director will choose to kill off each of the successive victims. Thus this movie is at its best when the creative and sometimes icky deaths start piling up one after another. (There’s one scene involving skin sores and sesame seeds that will definitely make viewers squirm!)
One thing that the writer and director Kim Ji-Hwan has done well is to create a visually handsome period story. Most scenes are awash in a dreamy atmosphere of mist and fog, and color is used very subtly throughout, making the splashes of red and blue in the splendid costumes even more pronounced and gem-like. Although the twin twist angle was certainly not hard to guess, the actress playing the mother (Yang Geum-seok, apparently a well-known Korean television star) gives a nicely nuanced performance despite her limited screen time, and a lovely young Park Shin-hye does well in her double role as both twins. It all adds up to a nice, quiet, albeit sometimes slow little chiller with a particularly Korean sensibility, good enough for a rainy Saturday afternoon’s viewing.