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After the fiery death of her terminally ill mother, Anna (Emily Browning) spends the following months in a psych hospital. She's released back to her father (David Strathairn), but is bummed to find that her mother's nurse (Elizabeth Banks) has moved into the house as well, and is playing the role of the bitchy stepmother. Anna and her older sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) aren't exactly keen on their new mom, and after a few visits from their real mother's ghost, their stepmother seems to be of the killer psycho variety.
While I haven't gotten around to seeing the original 2003 film by director Ji-woon Kim (some critic/horror fan I am), from what I've heard, it's another delightful ditty from Korea. As well, the original is miles above what we stupid North Americans got with this film by directors Charles & Thomas Guard, which is yet another in a long line of xeroxed remakes of superior Asian originals. Unlike some of those remakes, THE UNINVITED isn't as painful to watch as you'd expect, though it's still not something you'd want to spend hard-earned money on.
The first thing that struck me about the film was its production, which was so close to being impeccable as you could get as a glitzy American remake. Then again, that's one of the reasons why you shoot a film in British Columbia, Canada. Thumbs up for director of photography Dan Landin for being able to bring us cinematography that was crisp and cold at the same time. The brothers in the directors' chairs deserve mention as well, since they did seem to make attempts towards separating this film from the rest of the Asian horror remakes. Camera placement and movement is interesting while not drawing too much attention to itself, and the lighting is effective at generating some creepiness.
When it came to the cast, I was split between being impressed and disappointed. On the impressive side, Elizabeth Banks pulling a 180 with her performance as an antagonist, as opposed to being the lovable characters we've seen in the various comedies she's done, was great to see. Emily Browning was another bright spot, even though she seems kind of miscast for the role as a charming innocent. The disappointment comes in the form of David Strathairn, who is criminally underused in the film, and his character has about the same depth as a kleenex after a session of watching porn. This of course brings me to the biggest problem with the film.
THE UNINVITED is the opposite of 'deep'. Instead of having characters that are interesting and evolve as the movie goes on, it's as uninvolving as you'd expect for a PG-13 'horror' movie. Every character is underdeveloped to some extent, and even with the good performances, the characters still can't break out of Tack onto that a bland script that plods along with handicapped characters who say and do stupid things, while occasionally throwing out a half-assed attempt at a jump scare. Even scenes involving Anna's ghostly mother only nudge the plot along, and just barely do that.
There's also next to nothing in terms of tension in the film, which is hard to believe seeing as this is more of a drama than anything else. When it did try to do something, it wound up being the 'Sweet'n Low' version: probably scary to the younger teen audience, but to the rest of the horror populace, does nothing. You could say the same thing about the entire film, for that matter. Even the twist ending, another of the few salvageable pieces of the film, was a chore to get to, simply because the whole movie was distant and devoid of any sort of good horror moments.
As a weekend time-killer, THE UNINVITED might provide some sort of stimulation while you do something monotonous. It's not a slap in the face like some remakes, but it doesn't do much to break away from the pack, either. If the script was kept from being lobotomized and the characters developed more, the film would be more towards a serious fan's liking. But since that didn't happen, you're left with something that only your kid sister would find scary.
Video: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks good for its atmospheric intentions. Keeping with the dreamy, somber feeling the Guard Brothers were going for, fleshtones are desaturated when needed to match the blues and greens of the overall image. Obviously, compared to the Blu-Ray version, this transfer is a bit fuzzy and ragged. There's a small amount of edge enhancement, but nothing terrible.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track is likewise subdued. Not totally immersive as it should be, there are moments where the soundtrack is aggressive in its use of surround effects, but like the script, doesn't do much to create tension. Dialogue is soft and action is muffled a bit, and while the score by Christopher Young is effectively balanced among front and rear channels, it again doesn't get to where it should be in grabbing the viewer.
Unlocking The Uninvited is an uneventful 19-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that while somewhat informative, doesn't aspire to go beyond stuff you'd expect from EPKs. Aside from touching on the Freudian themes present in the film, the whole thing feels simplistic and as by-the-numbers as the film itself.
Following that are four deleted scenes and an alternate ending that completes the sparse extras. The alternate ending is just an extending of the finale to better explain for the less perceptive viewers (read: we stupid North Americans) an element to the twist at the end that is obviously clear, while the deleted scenes are mostly made up of unnecessary clues to the twist that may or may not have added to the film's dearth plot.
And really, where's the frickin' trailer?
THE UNINVITED is the equivalent of your typical supermodel: it's pretty to look at, but nothing much going on upstairs to warrant an in-depth look, and not much difference from the other supermodels preceding it. A fire-and-forget film that can't even hold a Bic's lighter to the original, you'll watch it, become bored, and when it's over, forget you even saw it. That is, until you see the superior A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, after which you'll be sorry you saw the remake first.