The Uninvited (2009)
Directors: The Guard Brothers
Starring: Emily Browning, Elizabeth Banks, Arielle Kebbel
Release date: 30 January (US). With every passing year on the list, the more bored I get. Can The Uninvited give me a boost? Recent filmic experience tells me, probably not. May contain Shyamalan shenanigans and spoilers…
How many of these J-Horror remakes has there been now? That’s not the question to ask really; what makes the denizens of Hollywood think they can do better than the original? That’s the question. Doubtless, it’s not about doing better. More than likely, the remakes are cheap to chuck out and they turn over a tidy profit in the process, who cares about getting it right. Ah… I don’t know what to say about The Uninvited and on that basis I probably shouldn’t say anything. I can tell you that Nurofen does not peaceably coexist with Benylin. I’d be happy to accept a summer cold if indeed we’d had a feckin summer to start with. No, I’m not in a movie reviewing mood. I just get nowty when I’m ill and it’s not fair on the film cork-legged in the firing line.
I’ll go easy on The Guard Brothers, The Uninvited was the first feature from these British siblings and just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean it’s no good. These blokes have got to start somewhere, eh. Unfortunately, there’s a constant feeling of ‘been here before’ all the way through this flick. The film is shot well enough without a doubt, but it is ploddingly formulaic. Teen-horror, is that a recognised genre? I haven’t seen the Asian film on which this is based – A Tale Of Two Sisters – so I can’t take a comparative line, though I shouldn’t do that anyway, I should judge a movie on its own merits, or lack thereof. Anyone seen A Tale Of Two Sisters then? About the only positive thing I can say is The Uninvited isn’t nasty, it tries to be a traditional supernatural mystery without resorting to excessive gore or sound-inspired jumps (though there are jump inducing moments). The movie is unashamedly riffing on The 6th Sense rather than Saw.
Anna (Emily Browning) is in a mental hospital. She’s been through a great deal of trauma having witnessed her ailing mother go up in flames in the boathouse adjoining the family home. She is haunted by the death in her dreams. And we see from the marks on her wrists that Anna has attempted suicide. Nevertheless, it is 10 months on and she is ready to be discharged home to her father, Stephen (David Strathairn) and big sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel), as well as dad’s new lady friend Rachel (Elizabeth Banks) who just so happened to be mom’s live-in nurse. The two sisters aren’t keen on Rachel and the feeling appears to be mutual. Oh, there’s an effort on Rachel’s part but her heart doesn’t seem to be in it. Stephen just wants to be a happy family again, he is blind to anything beyond that. Having convinced themselves that shifty Rachel is responsible for the fire, the sisters team up to discover that she has indeed changed her name; she appears to have one or to skeletons in her closet. And if they’re onto her dodgy business, well, she might not want them around any longer than necessary…
Dunno what to write, really. There’s a ‘twist’, obviously. It is achieved not through cleverness but by cheating, that’s the only way I can put it. I had even considered the possibility of the eventual outcome but dismissed it because of certain story points – I’m desperately trying not to give too much away here. It’s very annoying watching characters say or do things they wouldn’t, all to mask what’s coming. What should be clear from the off is that Rachel is painted black. Not just a few brush strokes, they’ve tipped the entire contents of the tin over her. If you’re like me, in this kind of movie, the alarm bells start ringing and I start paying closer attention to everybody else in the film. That’s when you begin to notice other things. Not that you should ignore Rachel though, as is evidenced by Anna and Alex hunting through her nursing history to discover more discrepancies. The film becomes less about ghosts and more about The Hand That Rocks The Cradle; The Guard Brothers are determined to keep your focus on the devious nurse. Even the title is designed to deflect you – the original title changed to help in this regard.
Nevertheless, The Uninvited is at core a ghost story and in the driving seat are ‘The Ghost Of Mom’ and some pesky kid spirits. And here’s where the tricky sleight of hand comes into play; the spooks point the finger at Rachel and rightly so but otherwise seem reluctant to, y’know, tell our heroine what happened that fateful night at the boathouse. It’s a bit like Passengers in this respect. The genre is full of chain-clankers guiding a lead character to the truth or issuing warnings, returning to accuse those responsible for their death. There’s at least one recently deceased ghoul here who should be coming back feeling wronged yet doesn’t, he just blathers on in an unhelpful manner. When finally we get hit by the ‘twist’, it merely deposits a furrow of consternation upon the brow as one considers what has gone before. ‘I’ve been mugged’, thought I. There are a couple of fairly creepy moments involving Anna’s burned up mom, slithering toward her across the bedroom floor in one instance and later on, staggering in her direction in the now rebuilt boathouse. Both scenes are too dark to be properly effective though. Seriously, I only finished watching the movie a couple of hours ago and I can’t think of any other notable scenes, except for Kebbel in a bikini.
The performers are relatively decent. Elizabeth Banks is enjoying herself, I haven’t seen her play an evil bitch before. Strathairn does the concerned dad thing with just a hint of sinister to keep you guessing, otherwise not overly stretching himself. Poor Browning keeps winding up in the loony bin! She’s actually quite affecting here as both vulnerable and haunted (and she was a spooky kid herself in Ghost Ship). It’s a performance which suggests a promise that hasn’t fully materialised. Sleeping Beauty was supposed to be her breakthrough role but I don’t think that one took off did it. Best of the bunch is Kebbel, really liked her attitude, a hint of mischief (stealing the batteries out of Rachel’s dildo!) and a sisterly affection when required. You’ll probably get what’s going down early on. I actually noted one oddity – and it’s pretty well done throughout the film (though I haven’t gone back to check if it’s consistent).
That’s all I’ve got without going too far. All right, I’m not even arsed about going too far, there’s just nothing significant to scribble about The Uninvited and I can’t wait to stop scribbling about it. Not very scary but at least it isn’t a torture porn fest.
I’ll give it 1 I See Dead People out of 5.
ThereWolf, July 2012