The Uninvited (2009)

5 Apr

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

(Originally reviewed mid-2009)

Another Asian horror film remade for American audiences…this time, it’s “A Tale of Two Sisters” from Korea remade as “The Uninvited.” Now, don’t dismiss this as a rip-off right away. “The Uninvited” is a chilling piece of work by the Guard Brothers by Britain. This is their directorial debut, and it’s not a bad one.

The main reason “The Uninvited” works so well is that Emily Browning is a most engaging choice for a heroine. Her face is so wonderfully expressive and she makes her character convincing in the scenes where she is supposed to be scared or confused. Emily Browning is an Australian actress, and she is 20 years old, though she looks 14. She was previously seen in “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.” She’s terrific in this movie, and she’s so fresh and ready to take on any role.

Emily Browning plays Anna, a teenaged girl who is at a party at the beach one night. But when she is making out with her boyfriend, he says he has a condom. That causes her to leave but when she arrives at her house, she sees the boathouse nearby blow up with her terminally ill mother inside of it.

For almost a year after the incident, Anna is released from a mental institution to go back home to her loving father (David Strathairn) and her sassy older sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel). She doesn’t quite remember what happened the night of the incident. Her father’s new girlfriend is Rachel (Elizabeth Banks), who was her mother’s caregiver. Anna doesn’t trust Rachel, who is just dangerously nice.

Anna keeps questioning what really happened that night. Her boyfriend Matt claims to be a witness to the accident but he never gets a chance to talk to her. Rachel may have something to do with it. Even Alex seems to think so—the fire may not have been an accident but an act of murder by Rachel to get closer to their father. While Anna tries to figure things out, she is being haunted by visions of her dead mother who creepily tries to tell her something.

The movie looks good. I like the ominous look of the horror movies from the 70s and 80s. And the thriller aspect is effective. I recoiled in my seat during a few of the scenes. One sequence in particular is nail-biting. It’s the scene in which Anna sits up in bed and some thing is creeping towards her.

The actors are effective. David Strathairn is well-cast as the loving father who may have a secret kept. Arielle Kebbel brings charisma and energy to her role as the sassy older sister. And Elizabeth Banks, who has been the career woman for the past few months (she was George Bush’s wife in “W,” Miri in “Zack & Miri,” and the love interest in “Role Models”) as the beautiful, nice blonde, shows a darker side than we’ve seen her before. But Emily Browning makes the best impression here.

This is a thriller that works. We don’t really know why Anna is seeing all of these visions and we keep anticipating for an answer. There are a lot of scenes that seem set up and they all lead to the big twist at the end of the movie.

I have seen a lot of thrillers with big twists at the end and I love them sometimes—for example, “The Sixth Sense” and “Frailty.” But with “The Uninvited,” the ending’s twist is a bit too much. I will say this, though—I didn’t predict it. But it makes the whole movie kind of sad in a way that makes the audience question themselves, “Did who we rooted for deserve to be rooted for?” I’m not going to give the ending away, but I am going to give “The Uninvited” a marginal recommendation. Emily Browning won me over.

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