Review: THE UNINVITED (2009)

Posted by Peter Hall - April 24th 2009 @ 11:08 pm

Directed by Charles Guard and Thomas Guard, 2009
Written by Craig Rosenberg and Doug Miro based on A TALE OF TWO SISTERS

In an recent response to my original dismissal of Fox television show “FRINGE”, a reader pointed out that I should factor in the general population’s narrowed intake of Science Fiction instead of comparing the show to other similar but less-marketed programs of late.  While I do not think this is a mandatory approach, it is a valid point.  I may not be the greatest genre historian, but when it comes to the new wares, I am a glutton.  It is because of this sin(virtue) that I have perspective enough to see both sides of THE UNINVITED.  On one pole we have the unnecessary and inferior remake of a prized Korean jolter, on the other we have the generic offering made from Hollywood to the malleable minds of teenagers unburdened by experience.

Is it my fault I’ve seen all this before?  Should I be ashamed that I’m not the target audience?  Is this review necessary?  Why am I even considering this line of questioning?  I don’t need to make excuses for someone else’s lack of inspiration.

THE UNINVITED is the film equivalent of the guy at work who pulls me aside to tell a joke I’ve already heard elsewhere.  The problem isn’t that I’ve heard the joke, instead that the new guy telling it isn’t much of a show man.  He’s got nothing new to bring to the table.  People who haven’t heard the one about the Pope and Raquel Welch get a kick out of it, I just nod my head and wait ’til he is done.

Emily Browning plays Anna, a previously suicidal girl who has just been released from a psychiatric ward following the death of her ailing mother.  Daddy (David Strathairn) is now dating a new woman (Elizabeth Banks) and her sister (Arielle Kebbel) is, from all evidence, a boozed up hoe.  Distracting Anna from spending her new found freedom whining on FMyLife.com is a mystery surrounding the real culprit behind her mother’s death and whether or not Daddy’s new bang maid is who she says she is.  Oh and there is a ghost that lives under her bed and old farmhouse children who live in trash bags and other inconvenient locations.

I’m actually not a fan of the original TALE OF TWO SISTERS (though director Ji-woon Kim went on to make the solid gangster film A BITTERSWEET LIFE and the wild THE  GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD).  It has stunning cinematography and several genuinely scary sequences, but the bulk of the film’s narrative is all-over-the-place sloppy, like a roll of toilet paper that has been re-wrapped after unraveling.  For what it’s worth, I think American writers Rosenberg and Miro do a better job of wrangling the script together, but duo directors the Guard brothers can’t even hold Ji-woon Kim’s zipper open.  Sparing the sequence in which a boy’s spine warps and wriggles under his skin, there isn’t an interesting shot or setup in the entire 87 minutes.

Those sub-90 minutes would drag more than they do were it not for the cast, who keep the familiar film from flat-lining full stop.  The majority of the show belongs to Emily Browning, who reflects the melodrama of the target audience to a T (my odd way of paying her a compliment).  She hasn’t had any breakout roles, but I’ve always found Arielle Kebbel brings a fresh charm to stale material, this time around straying from the good girl role and playing the rebellious teen bound to win a senior superlative for Most Likely to get a SchmaschmortionTM.  Strathairn delivers exactly what you’d expect an Oscar nominated actor to, which strangely leaves Elizabeth Banks as the odd one out.

I like Banks, I think she has great comedy chops, but her performance in THE UNINVITED straddles a wobbly fence.  She alternates with alarming regularity from looking like she either wants to fight or fuck, which is a bizarre gaze considering both emotions fall upon father and daughter alike.  Maybe Banks always looks like this and I never noticed, maybe the Guard brothers were playing with a psychosexual maternal relationship that was surprisingly subversive, maybe I was drunk.  Whatever the case, her easily misinterpreted body language is the most memorable thing about the film for me.

There is a reason I broke my See All Theatrical rule with THE UNINVITED and that reason goes by the call of Common Sense.  Trailers did a bang up job of broadcasting how bland vetted palettes would find PG-13 remake flavors.  It’s nothing personal and this review is not an I Told Ya So to myself.  This is just the way things are.  I’ll take the time to humor the industry, but I knew then (and will always know) how Roy Lee produced builds turn out.  And since you’re smart, you’ve got the same instinct I do.  Girls at a slumber party will get a kick out of this, occasional visitors to the genre may get a startle, THE UNINVITED does that much, but no more.

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rss 2 comments
  1. April 27th, 2009 | 10:25 am | #1

    Yeah, this confirms it: I’ll be skipping this one.

    That said, love the toilet paper analogy, and the “bang maid” IASIP shout-out.

  2. dawn grove
    May 23rd, 2009 | 9:56 am | #2

    gotta say I was totally shocked by ending. agree with you about Banks,i’d like to think how she comes across was planned,but doubt it.thought it was a good flick

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