THE UNINVITED (2009)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 27 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Violent and Disturbing Images, Thematic Material, Sexual Content, Language and Teen Drinking

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Directed by: Charles Guard & Thomas Guard

Written by: Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard

Starring: Emily Browning, Arielle Kebbel, Elizabeth Banks, David Strathairn, Jesse Moss & Maya Massar

After 2002’s THE RING was a huge box office success, it seemed like everyone was trying to recreate that film’s success. Hollywood made every possible effort to acquire the rights to remake every single Asian horror movie that found the slightest bit of success on the festival circuit. These remakes ranged from so-so (SHUTTER, THE GRUDGE) to downright unbearable (PULSE, ONE MISSED CALL, THE EYE). THE UNINVITED arrived at the tail-end of this fad. An Americanized version of A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, THE UNINVITED had every indication of sucking. It was a PG-13 teeny-bopper horror flick that was being released in January (a dump month for studios) and the marketing was laughably bad. However, THE UNINVITED is actually quite a bit better than expected. Is it in the upper pantheon of PG-13 horror flicks? Absolutely not. However, it does serve as a decent little flick and a possible gateway film for budding horror fans.

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It’s been ten months since Anna landed herself in a psychiatric institution. Anna’s reason for being in the loony bin was a failed suicide attempt after her mother’s death. It seems that lots of therapy and nightmares have done the trick and Anna is declared safe to discharge. She arrives home to her trouble-making sister, her distant father, and his suspicious girlfriend, Rachel. Anna’s nightmares begin to come to life though as she sees her dead mother in the middle of the night. A few jump scares later and Anna begins to suspect that Rachel may have possibly had a hand in her mother’s supposedly accidental death.

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Though it does have a fair share of ghostly apparitions and nightmare sequences, THE UNINVITED mostly relies on slow-building tension and an uneasy atmosphere. The basic gist of A TALE OF TWO SISTERS remains the same, but this remake is a definite Americanized reworking of the material. While this usually spells certain cinematic death for remakes of Asian horror films, THE UNINVITED comes off like a teeny-bopper Hitchcockian thriller instead. Though hardened horror fans will immediately predict where things are heading as a certain bombshell twist is fairly obvious, the above-average performances make the film into decent enough entertainment. Emily Browning and Arielle Kebbel are convincing as sisters. Elizabeth Banks is allowed to dig her teeth into the only notably villainous role of her career. David Strathairn is sadly underdeveloped as the father. He’s usually a strong screen presence, but he doesn’t have much to do here. Though Banks’s villain steals certain scenes with an underplayed threatening demeanor, the film is at it’s best when Browning and Kebbel are taking a Nancy Drew-ish approach to the potential murderer in their home.

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Though I’ve praised the film for being better than expected, THE UNINVITED still has a handful of noticeable problems. The script sets up its main twist in a manner that’s pretty obvious for anyone paying close attention and doesn’t fill in a number of plot holes that pop up along the way. That being said, I enjoyed little touches added onto the final few minutes that gave it a bit more dramatic context that the original film didn’t seem to have. In this way, the remake actually did something different instead of just rehashing everything that happened in the original. The film doesn’t know what it wants to do in terms of scares though. There are two really cool ghost gags that are creepy, but a majority of the scares rely on a red-haired, pale-faced girl popping out and whispering things to Anna. This little ghost girl serves as a plot device to further along the story, but always comes accompanied with clichéd and laughably over-the-top jump scares.

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THE UNINVITED is very much a slow-burn teeny-bopper horror flick. It has all of the clichés that description might entail, but it’s also far better than you might expect. More jaded horror fans will likely see scares and plot twists coming from a mile away, but I could see this being a big hit among teenagers at a sleepover. Compared to the weak competition in Americanized remakes of Asian horror films, I’d say that THE UNINIVTED is pretty damned decent. A TALE OF TWO SISTERS still remains the superior film, but if you want to introduce someone who’s not a horror fan into the genre, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Grade: B-

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