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Film Review: Two Sisters (2019) by James Lee

The success of American independent producer Roger Corman can be attributed to a variety of measures, mostly through the usual of cost-effective films with high-concept storylines and full-on promotion to sell his latest efforts. This business practice has crossed over to Malaysia with the first product from Kuman Pictures, a local genre studio started by entrepreneur Amir Muhammad, is directly influenced and modeled in that style.

Trying to move on with her life, burgeoning writer Mei Xi (Emily Lim) finds that she must return to her childhood home and be with her sister Mei Yue (Lim Mei Fan) in order to put the lingering effects of Yue's psychosis to rest. Reconnecting with each other in their mother's house, the time apart begins to heal their wounds until they each begin to notice strange happenings around the villa as shadows begin to play tricks on their minds and other odd occurrences begin popping up. With Yue at the brink of exhaustion, the longer they remain a series of dark family secrets come to light, and the more they realize that lingering family secrets aren't the only things haunting them.

For the most part, ‘' strikes a lot of positive points about it. A large part of the film's goodwill is derived from a detailed and enjoyable drama-filled storyline by director Lee. Bringing Xi and Yue back together again with the separation clearly having an effect on their relationship, having noted that they're not in close contact anymore due to the hospitalization and concurrent novel Xi's writing both serve to keep them apart for as long as they are. Harboring as much guilt as they are for each other's predicament as well as for the manner in which their beloved mother died when they were kids leaves a rather striking and memorable impression in the film. Director Lee, as the story milks that drama for all it's worth in the early stages slowly lets them come to grips with being around each other and getting comfortable within the house.

Graced with this fine setup, ‘Two Sisters' manages to really let loose with some calculated and effective scares. The idea of Yue still uneasy about being out of the asylum and being spooked by simple everyday occurrences allows the film to hide some effective moments behind that premise and keep them in the house longer when most would have abandoned the property. Other scenes, such as ghostly figures moving behind their backs for an entire conversation and no one noticing it or the continuous instances of her claiming to hear eerie wailing from inside the house manage to keep this one with enough horror elements alongside the dramatic ones. More great scare tactics include the reappearing shoes found around the house or several fantastic gags with cloths draped over furniture which are quite chilling and set the stage for the rather creepy finale that's far more haunting than expected. Bringing aboard the only real ghostly activity to be had and twisting the entire storyline around in a controversial manner, this is a striking and enjoyable part of the film.

That said, there are some big problems with the film. The most obvious and egregious is director Lee's rather bland and dragged out pacing that will make this a real challenge for some viewers. The reliance on creating a slow, sedate atmosphere in the film that never really builds spooks or jump-scares, for the most part, makes its main running time feel uneventful and dull in places. The fact that it oftentimes will set up a potential scare only to get interrupted and never pay it off may come off realistically but it can lead to some frustration when this goes for long periods of time detailing their relationship struggles rather than concentrating on the ghostly activities. That this never even makes it clear that a ghost is truly at the center of the activities as it concentrates more on Yue's fractured mindset than anything else makes the finale's twist all the more expected and not so shocking at all, which is a rather distressing factor that the film goes down that road when it never even earned pulling it off to begin with.

While the dramatic elements might not be appealing to all out there and it's ending twist feels like a cop-out, overall ‘Two Sisters' has some minor flaws but still manages enough to like that it's entirely watchable and enjoyable. Give this a go if you're a fan of these dramatic slow-burn genre films and can handle the flaws, yet those looking for more hard-hitting and frenetic fare should look elsewhere.

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