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Haunted People: The Others, A Tale of Two Sisters, & the Ghosts of Grief

Ghouls are discussing haunted people, more specifically how grief, isolation, and abandonment can haunt us. We cover The Others (2001) and A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) to explore how these films explore these ghosts. For both of these films, the horror is simply not knowing the extent to which our own minds will mend and twist reality so that we may, in some form, survive. Kat expands on all the stages of Grief (more than you know), how to manage it, the ghosts it creates, and remember to feel your feels.


Media from this week's episode:

The Others (2001)

A woman who lives in her darkened old family house with her two photosensitive children becomes convinced that the home is haunted.

Directed and Written by Alejandro Amenábar

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

A family is haunted by the tragedies of deaths within the family.

Directed by Kim Jee-woon


The Others & A Tale of Two Sisters: The Ghosts of Grief and Loss by Gabe Castro

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.


I watched both of these films long ago and they both stayed with me all this time. Having watched them previously and despite my terrible memory, retained the twist endings, watching them knowing the endings only enhanced my experience. It allowed me to truly look at these environments, the pain, and all the little clues the creators leave for us.


In The Others, we follow a very religious and delicate mother, Grace played by Nicole Kidman, her two sickly children, and the new help. These three new housekeepers are introduced to the family’s quiet, complicated, and isolated existence. Grace instructs them to close and lock any door they open before opening another. Curtains cover every window, as she explains her two children have a rare, untreated skin disorder that makes them photosensitive. Though the house is enormous and the estate grounds large, we only get glimpses of it through the small, enclosed, dark rooms Grace lets us in. Grace and her two children are the only inhabitants. Her husband had gone off to fight in the war, a war she believes they had no busy being in. And one day, all her servants simply vanished, without a word.

Her children Anne and Nicholas are young and very smart. They are quick to question some of the biblical stories and decisions their mother tells them. At other times, they flat-out admit their disbelief at the tall tales. Anne relentlessly teases poor Nicholas, painting her as an unreliable or easily dismissed character. However, when she begins to share her experiences, her tales of a ghost boy named Victor and later, an entire family of ghosts, she sticks to her guns despite punishment and the scrutiny of her family.

Soon, Grace begins to believe the house to be haunted. After a particularly jarring experience in the piano room one night, she is convinced and begins to spiral. She trusts no one and feels herself unraveling. She wanders through the unrelenting fog in hopes of making it to town to ask for help but she stumbles upon her lost and presumed dead husband. He is bewildered and admits, rather brokenly to Grace that he, “Bleeds sometimes.” She brings him home, the children are elated while the servants are wary. After a fight with her mother, as she spirals out and begins attacking her children in desperation, Anne talks with her father. She tells him what she’s been hinting at the whole movie, the tale of “that night” in which their mother had done something unforgivable and truly awful. Grace and her husband have a quiet fight (everything in this movie is quiet), before making love. But in the morning, he is once again gone. Returned to the fog.


In the end, we learn that the house is indeed haunted. Only it is our protagonists that are the ghosts and poor Victor and his family are the living. Grace, in an act of desperation, driven mad by isolation and abandonment, killed her two children, suffocating them with pillows before returning to her room to kill herself with a rifle. At the beginning of the film, she’d awoken up screaming. When telling the truth of the story, she explains that she thought, after hearing the children’s laughter upon awakening from what she felt was an awful nightmare, she felt that God was giving her a second chance.

In A Tale of Two Sisters, we follow as two sisters return home from a hospital. They return after their mother’s death to find their father with a new wife. This vicious stepmother slowly drops her kindly facade and begins to torture the sisters. Older sister Soo-mi is the most vocal of the two, often protecting her younger sister, Soo-yeon. Their father is often absent and when he is there, quiet and disconnected, broken in his own ways. Many paranormal things occur, revealing this house to be haunted by some ghostly girl. Feeling very J-Horror, the long black-haired specter looks just out of vision, a solitary hand scratching along the floor at night, a hand creaking a door open, hiding in a cupboard that we only catch a glimpse of, or standing before us with hair covering their pained face. Over time, Soo-mi begins to truly lose, overcome by her father’s dismissal of her stepmother’s actions. How can such terrible treatment be allowed to happen to her quiet and delicate sister?


As things descend into chaos, Soo-mi confronts her father. She asks him how he could allow for this to occur. He asks simply, “What has she done?” to which Soo-mi replies, “She is hurting Soo-yeon!” A look of sad, and bewilderment crosses her father’s eyes. In his sorrow, he explains to Soo-mi that Soo-yeon is dead and has been this entire time. As Soo-mi looks at Soo-yeon, screaming in the corner at her own tragic reality, Soo-mi knows this to be true.

The stepmother Eun-joo finally snaps and looks to attack Soo-mi after a traumatic cinematic experience where in which we see Eun-joo dragging a bloodied bag through the house and beating it with a pipe. Soo-mi finds this bag and in anguish and terror attempts to open it. She finds scissors but is confronted by Eun-joo, who is then stabbed accidentally with these scissors in her hand. The two fight, its a bloody mess and in a moment before Eun-joo drops a statue on Soo-mi’s head she says, “Remember what I told you. You may come to regret this moment. You want to forget something. But you can’t. It follows you around like a ghost.” When father arrives home, he finds a shaken Eun-joo in the room. She asks where Soo-mi is, to which he responds, “This needs to stop.” One very interesting and clever camera trick later, it is revealed that Eun-joo is actually Soo-mi. In her grief, she had both hallucinated her dearly departed sister and disasociated herself into becoming this woman. The Eun-joo arrives and upon seeing her face, Soo-mi realizes what she’s done all this time. We get to see the movie over again, this time with only Soo-mi.

Later, in the hospital once more, Eun-joo asks for forgiveness and says she will try to check on Soo-mi from now on. The interaction is stiff and unwell. We get a flashback that reveals what happened all that time ago, that so severely ruptured Soo-mi’s sanity. Their father was having an affair with Eun-joo, who would take care of them and the house. Because of this affair, heartbroken, their mother kills herself in the bureau in Soo-yeon’s room. Soo-yeon awakens and when she opens the door, finds her mother. Desperately she pulls on her mother, trying to awaken or revive her before the whole thing falls ontop of her. The whole house hears the fall but only Eun-joo goes to investigate. She hears the scratching of Soo-yeon, needing help under the bureau. She goes to leave, at the last minute she considers helping but bumps into Soo-mi in the hall. Soo-mi harasses her and says terrible things (reasonably) and so Eun-joo decides that’s enough of a reason to allow the sister to DIE. She says to Soo-mi, “One day, you may come to regret this.” To which Soo-mi replies, “Nothing could be worse than being here with you right now,” before leaving the house, never knowing that her sister was dying in the house, calling out her name, suffocated by her mother’s dead body.

Eun-joo in the present finds herself alone in the house. She hears a noise upstairs and goes to investigate. In the room, she hears a creak from the bureau and goes to investigate. It is then that the ghost is revealed to be real, Soo-yeon crawls from the closet and kills Eun-joo.

Ghosts or mental instability? Porque no los dos?

Grief and Isolation as Ghosts:

“Do you know what’s really scary? You want to forget something. Totally wipe it off your mind. But you never can. It can’t go away, you see. And it follows you around like a ghost.”

The reason we’ve chosen these two films to represent our Haunted People episode is that they share ma