Arriving at least two years after the Asian-horror-remake craze subsided, The Uninvited delivers a spooky-stepmom saga free of invention, with sibling directors Charles and Thomas Guard convinced—against all reason—that their dull, hackneyed ghost story will terrify if played conventionally. Having spent almost a year in a mental ward trying to cope with her mother’s death in a mysterious fire, Anna (Emily Browning) returns home to discover that her father (David Strathairn) has shacked up with her mother’s former nurse Rachael (Elizabeth Banks), a sexpot whose every silky comment and threateningly cheery glare screams danger. Egged on by sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel, whose entire wardrobe seems to consist of one bikini), as well as creepy dreams and hallucinations (or are they?) of a little ghoulish redheaded girl, Anna embarks on a Nancy Drew-meets-The Ring investigation into the insanely suspicious Rachael’s past. Aided by familiar J-horror (or, in this case, K-horror) specters, all seaweedy hair and broken limbs and crawling across the floor, Anna begins to suspect that her would-be stepmom may be a murderer, an opinion the film (based on Kim Jee-Woon’s superior A Tale of Two Sisters) so vigorously promotes that the plot’s only possible destination is a rug-pulling twist. Before the denouement arrives to drive the proceedings into dunderheaded M. Night Shyamalan territory, however, Uninvited aims for chills via a series of sequences in which Anna very slowly walks toward a door or object as belligerent, surging music telegraphs the exact moment of the impending jolt-scare. Asked only to lace friendly smiles with ulterior motive-menace, the typically captivating Banks never gets an opportunity to redeem such limp horror pap, and Strathairn, as the daddy who just won’t listen to his maybe-cuckoo daughter, barely appears awake during his scant few scenes. You can hardly blame him given the torpid, clichéd material at hand, which provides an apt visual metaphor for moviegoers’ experience of watching this tripe in the recurring sight of Anna sifting through garbage.
- DreamWorks Pictures
- 87 min
- Charles Guard, Thomas Guard
- Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard
- Emily Browning, Arielle Kebbel, David Strathairn, Elizabeth Banks
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