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Overall Rating

Awesome: 3.13%
Worth A Look: 9.38%
Average: 6.25%
Pretty Bad78.13%
Total Crap: 3.13%

4 reviews, 8 user ratings

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Uninvited, The (2009)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Rachel Getting Buried"
2 stars

In one of those amazing bits of serendipity that winds up seeming less and less amazing as soon as you give it even the slightest bit of though, “The Uninvited” is no less than the third horror-related film to emerge this month with a title featuring the prefix “Un-” in its title. The good news is that this Americanized remake of the 2003 Korean film “A Tale of Two Sisters,” which became the biggest film of all time in its native land and a cult favorite everywhere else, is better than either the atrocious “The Unborn” (a tacky and tasteless piece of junk that offered nothing of value other than lingering shot of starlet Odette Ustman’s admittedly spectacular panty-clad backside) or the idiotic “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” (a who-asked-for-it prequel that offered nothing of value except the sight of Michael Sheen, who can currently be seen as David Frost in “Frost/Nixon,” running around shirtless while transforming into an exceptionally unconvincing werewolf). The bad news is that while it does have a certain style and a couple of good performances, they aren’t enough to save it from its fate of being one of those movies that opens in January, makes a few quick bucks from kids who will see virtually any PG-13 horror item that comes along and is then completely forgotten by February.

The story opens as teenager Anna Rydell (Emily Browning) being released from the mental institution where she has been residing after the death of her sickly mother in a freak explosion drove her to a suicide attempt ten months earlier. Alas, her homecoming is not as joyous as one might hope--older sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) seems to resent Anna for being away for so long and remains cold and aloof and her father (David Strathairn) is a well-meaning dope who doesn’t have a clue as to how to really communicate with her. The biggest problem, however, is the presence of Rachel (Elizabeth Banks), who was Mom’s former nurse and who is now Dad’s current flame--she claims that she wants to be friends with Anna but there is something in her cold and calculating stare that suggests anything but. To make matters worse, Anna begins seeing a series of ghostly apparitions, including her mother and a trio of little kids decked out in their Sunday-go-to-”Shining” clothes, that seem to suggest that Rachel was responsible for their deaths, not to mention the accident that took the life of a friend just before he was going to spill the beans about what really happened on the night that Mom died. With the aid of Alex, with whom she quickly reconciles thanks to their shared distaste for Rachel, Anna makes a few shocking discoveries--it turns out that she is living under an assumed name and may have previously worked for another family as a nanny before killing the kids and disappearing--but when she tries to confront Dad with the information, he not only doesn’t believe her but chooses that moment to inform her that he and Rachel are getting married. Then, just to compound his lack of sensitivity, he then takes off the next day so that he can conveniently be absent for the final showdown between the two sisters and Rachel, a knock-down brawl filled with sharp knives, slammed doors and menacing-looking hypodermic needles being jabbed into various limbs.

While I know that I saw “A Tale of Two Sisters” when it first played in America, I must confess that I don’t recall much about it outside of the basic premise and the massive plot twist that was deployed at about the 2/3rd mark that forced a reevaluation of everything that we had seen up to that point. As a result, I can’t really offer up a precise comparison between that film and “The Uninvited” except to note that both of them are pretty forgettable--the only difference is that the American version dissolves from one’s memory a lot quicker. While the original, if I am not mistaken, tried to link its spooky horrors to the ordinary terrors of adolescence (as I recall, menstruation played a significant part in the proceedings), this new one has little on its mind other than tossing its feckless heroine into situations where she can be menaced by bizarre apparitions making the kind of weird, ratchety noises that usually serve as the prelude to a long and expensive visit to your local garage. That wouldn’t be so bad, I suppose, if those scenes actually contained some genuine tension and suspense but directors Charles & Thomas Guard are more content to offer up little more than a bunch of scenes in which things pop out of nowhere in order to give viewers a couple of involuntary shocks instead of real scares. And as for that aforementioned twist, which worked pretty well the original, it isn’t nearly as effective here because the buildup to the revelation has been handled in such an awkward and ham-handed manner that even the densest viewers will presumably figure it out long before the big reveal.

As I said, “The Uninvited” isn’t a particularly good movie--at most, it might be worth watching on television simply as background noise if there was absolutely nothing else worthwhile on--but in the interest of fairness, I will mention that it isn’t completely without merit. Although they go about telling their story in the pokiest manner possible--even at under 90 minutes, the film feels endless--the Guard Brothers do demonstrate a certain visual style that captures the eye while everything else is turning the brain to mush. The performances from the always-reliable David Strathairn and Elizabeth Banks help to flesh out their otherwise one-note characters in ways that aren’t often seen in low-grade horror junk of this type. Best of all, however, is the striking presence of Emily Browning as Anna. Perhaps best known to most viewers as the little girl in the Lemony Snicket movie from a few years ago, she has definitely grown up in that time and now possesses a solemn manner, quiet intelligence and grave beauty that is both undeniably appealing and perfectly suited for a film involving someone skulking through dark rooms while desperately trying to uncover darker secrets before it is too late. While watching her, I kept thinking to myself that someone ought to cast her in a horror film as soon as possible in order to take advantage of those qualities. Then, of course, I remembered that I was currently watching her in a horror movie. Oh well, maybe someone will see this movie and be inspired to one day cast her in a better one than this.

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originally posted: 01/31/09 03:18:55
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User Comments

3/30/14 The Big D Nothing especially original, but well done entertainment for horror and suspense fans. 4 stars
7/27/12 Amanda Smith Not too scary. Didn't see the ending coming. 5 stars
9/08/09 Rip VanWinkle Watch "A Tale of Two Sisters" instead. Reviewer obviously did NOT. 2 stars
5/26/09 mr.mike Not bad at all as a rental. 4 stars
3/22/09 james obrien total cow dung 1 stars
3/19/09 Lenny Zane Last part totally incoherent. So was Rachel really bad or not? 3 stars
2/06/09 Alejandro Sosa the movie often tried to add a new edge to this already done idea, could of been better 3 stars
2/01/09 Ming Great exciting movie 4 stars
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  30-Jan-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 28-Apr-2009


  DVD: 28-Apr-2009

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