From the previews it seems like “The Uninvited,” a remake of a 2003 Korean horror film, is a typical teen-oriented horror flick - pretty girls in minimal clothing, creepy hollow-eyed children, sudden jolts of fright. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t give it that much credit.
The film opens with Anna’s (Emily Browning) release from a mental hospital, where she has been since her suicide attempt 10 months ago following her invalid mother’s death in a devastating explosion. Very soon upon returning home to her father (David Strathairn) and sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel), it’s clear something isn’t right in the house - maybe even “evil.”
After several scary encounters and visions, Anna is convinced that her father’s new live-in girlfriend Rachael (Elizabeth Banks) - her mother’s nurse - was in fact her killer. Anna and Alex begin to dig up dirt on Rachael, who grows more sinister in every scene. Like in most horror flicks, no responsible adult believes the desperate protagonists, so the girls take the matter into their own hands.
The movie errs with poor pacing and lack of imagination. The set-up drags out far too long and consists mostly of a delicate Anna staring wide-eyed at strange images before her. The scary stunts never build into anything of real consequence or danger. In contrast, the pleasantly unexpected twist ending is shoved in your face with little chance to savor it, only emphasizing how much better everything leading up to it could have been.
So what’s redeeming about the film? The setting is stunning, filmed on Bowen Island, British Columbia, at a home that should get its own HGTV special. Banks surprises as the creepy, steely-eyed nurse and Arielle Kebbel, as older sister Alex, manages to transcend the bikini-clad horror chick stereotype to provide some much-needed comedic relief and one of the only sympathetic people in the movie (ironic, considering the plot twist). And, finally, it is a mercifully short 87 minutes.
Perhaps the film would be better served if it were titled “The Undecided,” since it never really decides if it’s a horror movie or a thriller/mystery. The filmmakers seemed to have only one or two tricks up their sleeves and they quickly lose any real impact. Even the boisterous preview crowd seemed to sort of shrug its communal shoulders at crucial points in the film - sometimes even laughing (and not in a good way).
All in all, keep “The Uninvited” off of your guest list.