Written by: Andrea McPherson, Special to CC2K
The implications of the term "horror film" can be far-reaching. Unless it's a cult classic like Halloween or Friday the Thirteenth, moviegoers tend to cringe at the thought of redundant thriller clichés. A list of such hackneyed devices would include: adolescent sex, scantily clad and rail-thin women, over-passionate acting, and of course, gore by the bucket. The Guard Brothers' The Uninvited has all of the above and then some. Unfortuntely, this bit of faint praise is the only thing good about it.
Based on the 2003 film Changhwa Hongryon by Korean-born director Kim Jee-Woon, The Uninvited wastes no time in getting to the gory suspense. Not even 15 minutes into the picture, there is a particularly unnerving nightmare to be had by the lead character, Anna Rydell, [Emily Browning] whose homecoming is preceded by a stay at a mental institution after the traumatic death of her already terminally ill mother. Coincidentally, "lead characters waking up in a cold sweat after a prophetic dream" is yet another checked-off item on the list of necessary horror film ingredients. But in this film, it is a gimmick on a path that leads nowhere, thanks to the incongruous twist ending that leaves theater patrons with a neon-blinking question mark looming over their heads.
Similar to society dynamics, female serial killers are on the rise in horror films. Though it’s true that art imitates life, this trend is quickly becoming de rigeur for movies, and without anything novel up their sleeves, the directors seem content to pull out the usual scare tactics to keep audiences entertained. After one too many tight shots on the villain’s [Elizabeth Banks] deadpan expression, blood curdling screams and close-ups of slowly turning doorknobs, I got the feeling the audience is ready to get it over with, already. The only saving grace are the script’s intermittent punch lines (“I’m not the one who saw her dead mother point her finger at Dad’s creepy girlfriend.”), one or two genuinely suspenseful moments and the fact the Elizabeth Banks is quite believable as pseudo-savvy, sociopathic murderess.
Here's a surprise: supporting actress Arielle Kebbel (Anna’s sister, Alex) has a wardrobe predominantly consisting of delightfully patterned bathing suits. High school boys will be tickled blue. Apart from her trusty Converse shoes, sister Alex (I’ve seen this actress perform well in more challenging and complex roles) serves as silver screen dead weight and is an un-arousing dud, as her character offers up corny line after one-note, corny line.
One thing this film should be merited for is the casting director’s diligence in getting two very skilled actresses that could actually pass as sisters. In fact, The Uninvited is full of both fresh and up and coming talent, Elizabeth Banks, along with some bit part favorites; David Strathairn, who plays the grief stricken and insatiable father.
If, after reading this review, remake film fanatics are still propelled to be brave the throngs of pubescent, brace-faced youngsters just dying to be the first to view it, be prepared to be bored to yawns. It’s time to bury the hatchet. Thomas and Charles Guard have obviously inherited the manifest destiny trait when it comes to Americans attempting to recreate expertly crafted Asian horror classics; somehow, they perpetually fall short. The Uninvited will certainly not go down in the film archives as an “occult classic.”