Monday, February 09, 2009
This should feel like a scenario straight out of the most spine-chilling of nightmares, a portentous vision of a grim fate to come. So then, why does it feel so much like déjà vu? Perhaps the answer lies in the sheer number of pointlessly derivative horror films such as The Uninvited clogging up the collective arteries of fright-seeking filmgoers across the free world.
Adapted from the South Korean smash-hit A Tale of Two Sisters, The Uninvited (a generic title if ever there was one) stars the fresh-faced young actress Emily Browning, likely known best as the eldest child in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, as Anna, a young girl with a routinely tragic past. After her terminally ill mother perished in a burning guesthouse, under shady circumstances, poor despairing Anna became mentally unhinged and suicidal, causing her to be locked away in a loony bin for ten long months.
Returning home to her family's isolated sea-side home for the first time since that fateful occurrence, Anna quickly finds herself at odds with both her stern author father (David Strathairn) and his significantly younger new lady-friend Rachael (the ubiquitous Elizabeth Banks – who, despite a memorable scene involving a roast, goes a little too broad here). As well, she begins to experience disturbing nocturnal visions of ghostly cadavers, including her own char-broiled mother, who hint that Anna's new step-mom-to-be may not be who she says she is. Joining forces with her rebellious older sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel), our young heroine is tasked with solving the perplexing riddles behind the nature of her menacing apparitions and...
...I have to stop there. What little interest and surprise that the film holds is entirely dependent on you knowing as little as possible before dropping your dollars at the ticket booth. Nonetheless, I will warn you that learning The Uninvited's dirty little secret, which is sort of a cheat, comes at the often exasperating cost of being incessantly clobbered upside the head by a blatant red herring for about, oh, ninety-five percent of the flick's run-time.
British directing duo the Guard Brothers (Charles and Thomas, respectively) manfully attempt to differentiate The Uninvited from the rest of its ilk by embracing the film's sunny Bowen Island shooting location. Their exterior shots are often beautiful, and a refreshing alternative to the more traditional murky gloominess which overtakes the film's latter half. However, perhaps concerned with appearing too unique, they self-consciously crib the lion's share of their scare tactics from a smorgasbord of other Asian-influenced scary movies. I may have said it in my review of The Unborn, but I'll say it again: the effectiveness in using spooky youngsters as fright props died with the miserable final convulsions of The Ring and The Grudge series.