- Charles Guard, Thomas Guard
- Emily Browning, Elizabeth Banks, Arielle Kebbel, David Strathairn
- 87 min.
- Release Date
The Uninvited follows carefully prescribed statutes for today’s average supernatural thriller, without deviating in the slightest. Based on Kim Ji-woon’s South Korean horror original, A Tale of Two Sisters, this remake offers no surprises, nothing beyond cliché. But before plunging into my review, be forewarned that I have every intention of spoiling the ending. I’m doing this to protect you, the reader, to save 89 minutes of your life so that you might plant a tree, rent the original, or do something equally productive instead of enduring the flaccid build-up to yet another ludicrous twist ending.
Setting up your run-of-the-mill evil stepmother yarn, the film begins with distraught teen Anna (Emily Browning) being released from a 10-month mental institution stay after her mother’s accidental death. Or was her mother murdered? Anna suspects as much when she starts seeing ghosts pointing to her dad’s new girlfriend. Rachael (Elizabeth Banks) is the former live-in nurse for Anna’s dead mom, and she has every intention of marrying Anna’s father and controlling their fancy-schmancy lakeside house, beginning with the kitchen.
Anna and her sister, Alex (Arielle Kebbel), are convinced Rachael has killed before and eluded police by changing her name—not that their father, Steven (David Strathairn), listens to them when they try to explain this. Strathairn should earn the Worst Movie Dad Ever Award, since his character allows another woman to move in less than a year after his wife’s death, doesn’t bother hiding his sex life from his daughters, remains oblivious to Rachael’s eerie behavior toward his children, and would rather send the girls away than have a real father-daughter conversation.
Banks, normally assigned to comedies like Role Models and Zack and Miri Make a Porno, plays wicked with what might be self-parodying cheese, except it’s clear she’s trying. Her character hisses sinister lines of dialogue and pulls a pearl necklace around Anna’s throat ever so subtly. Later, she freaks over a spoiled roast. Who wouldn’t? Then again, who would? She’s cartoonishly bad, and throughout the entire movie, we’re convinced she’s the killer, so much so that we’re unconvinced based on our level of certainty. In other words, there has to be a twist…
Viewers familiar with Stir of Echoes or The Orphanage will feel right at home. Creepy, mangled apparitions appear in the shadows uttering “you’re next” and other such dribble. Tensions build. Then comes the kicker. It turns out that Anna imagined her suspicions about Rachael, and really, Alex died in the fire with her mom, and the entire movie was a hallucination. Almost as shoddy as the “it was all a dream” solution, “it was all a delusion” isn’t much better. Furthermore, it robs us of the ending where the bitchy would-be stepmom is exposed to the negligent dad, who finally listens to his daughters. Instead, Anna hacks up Rachael and stuffs her in a dumpster, and redundant flashbacks deleting Alex from the picture take care of the rest.
Asian horror remakes and twist endings, which go hand in hand, are getting out of control. We now expect that final scene of revelation, and rather than feeling stunned, our overexposure tells us to just shrug and say, “Oh, so that’s what happened,” without the slightest interest. And so, in spoiling the end of this film, I hope to illustrate how unsatisfying shocker finales often prove to be. Because when you see what happens, you’ll probably laugh, roll your eyes, or mutter, “Gimmie a break.” What you won’t do is recoil from terror.
Should you suddenly develop the urge for an Asian horror remake, The Uninvited might provide a jolt or two, I guess. The problem is that Hollywood accumulates the rights for potential remakes from different markets all over the Far East. Releasing them all within our one market, however big it may be, first wears on our patience and then proves we have little imagination. If you’ve had to endure Dark Water, The Eye, The Grudge, Mirrors, One Missed Call, Pulse, or Shutter, you can relate to my frustrations.