Directed by: Charles and Thomas Guard
Cast: Emily Browning, Arielle Kebbel, David Strathairn, Elizabeth Banks
Time: 1 hr 20 min
Rating: PG 13
Plot: Anna (Browning) has been recuperating in a mental hospital after a tragedy that took her mother’s life. She returns home to find that her father (Strathairn) has taken up with her deceased mother’s nurse (Banks) and both Anna and her sister, Alex (Kebbel), begin to suspect the mother’s death was no accident.
Who’s It For? Fans of ghost stories and anyone who wants to see Elizabeth Banks drop all traces of cute and take on the role of wily seductress.
Expectations: I was excited to see this movie up until the very moment I realized I had already seen this movie: it’s copied off of an amazing Korean film called A Tale of Two Sisters. After that, my heart sank and I braced myself for another one of Hollywood’s lame duplicates.
Emily Browning as Anna: Browning has an uncommon screen presence. She’s way more indie than she is traditional Hollywood and it really works in this part. That’s not to say the part is especially well-written or fleshed out, but if you put another teeny-bopper in there, it would be one long yawn after another. Browning actually inspires fascination with her natural beauty, her wide-eyed youth, and her aura of shy timidity. I really enjoyed watching her. Score: 7
Arielle Kebbel as Alex: Kebbel comes closer to being the teeny-bopper, but her character has the most flare; so she gets away with it by the skin of her teeth. Alex is the wilder sister, but she’s also very smart. Alex is an excellent balance for Anna’s reticence. Score: 6
David Strathairn as Steven: Strathairn is always likable, but here he seems out of place. It didn’t feel like there was any thought behind casting Strathairn, which translates to a lack of oomph behind the role. Still, he’s a good actor and it’s important that you like Steven, otherwise you spend a lot of time wondering why Anna doesn’t just poison his BLT and be done with it.
Elizabeth Banks as Rachel: Props to Banks for trying to get away from the adorable girl next-door roles. It would’ve been a real joy if the writing had been a little stronger, because Banks does a good job using her innate cuteness as a method of driving home the hidden, creepy undertones. She oscillates between harmless and psychotic in a way that maintains the character’s strange inscrutability, which, again, would’ve been phenomenal had the writing been better.
Talking: Mediocre and mostly blah with a few good lines and believable exchanges that have much more to do with the actors than it with the actual dialogue. I would honestly say that A Tale of Two Sisters is a classic ghost story—so just picture a few average writers filling in the dialogue blanks for an excellent movie that has already been made, and you get a general idea of its blandness.
Sights: The sights can make or break a ghost story and in The Uninvited, they are so recycled it almost doesn’t even register on the good/bad scale. The filmmakers liberally “borrowed” from other ghostly greats, such as The Shining, The Sixth Sense, and a plethora of Asian ghost movies. What is the most surreal is that the movie didn’t even try to capture the incredible colors and visceral creepiness of the film it’s actually based on—the story is recognizable, but the amazing scenery of A Tale of Two Sisters is all but ignored. Why not “borrow” from the incredible originality of the movie you’re actually remaking? Weird.
Sounds: In the film, Anna’s mother is debilitated by a terminal illness and she has to get her family’s attention by ringing a little silver bell that is tied around her wrist. I did like the creep factor of the ghostly trilling of the bell on the wind or in Anna’s restless dream states.
Best Scene: The best scene is at the very end. I cannot even touch upon the details, because it would hint at the twist, and without the twist this film is almost pointless.
Ending: The ending is creepy and fun and if, unlike me, you haven’t seen the phenomenal original film The Uninvited is based on, you’ll be surprised and horrified. If you have seen A Tale of Two Sisters, you’ll still be a little surprised due to the American twist on the Korean twist, but you’ll still know almost everything that’s on its way.
Questions: No questions. I was a bit curious as to how Rachel actually jogs with her breasts popping out of that ultra-sexy top—has anyone out there gone jogging? It’s not a sexy pastime—but I wasn’t left with any lingering questions about the basic meat of the film.
Rewatchability: If you’ve seen the original, you’ll want to rewatch the original. If you haven’t seen the original, you might want to take another look at The Uninvited just to watch everything from your new perspective post twist. Just go rent A Tale of Two Sisters.
Why is it that we can’t make our own ghost stories? We are constantly copying off the Japanese, the Chinese, the Koreans—all masters of the ghost story due to the prevalence of spirits in their history and society. We didn’t make a total mockery of The Ring, which translated well, but The Grudge, Shutter and One Missed Call were embarrassing.
If done correctly, the ghost story is one of the highest forms of horror art. If we’re going to copy off of someone else, we should at least strive to be slightly better if we don’t think we can knock it out of the park altogether. The Uninvited feels a little like the four year old who has tried on mommy’s shoes and now is tottering around in a semblance of grace and sophistication. You get the feeling that the filmmakers are depending on the fact that most of the audience has not seen the original and so they can make it as slipshod as they want—who is going to know the difference? It really is too bad.
Final Score: 5/10