The Uninvited
dir The Guard Brothers
scr Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard
with Emily Browning, Arielle Kebbel, David Strathairn, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Massar, Jesse Moss, Kevin McNulty, Dean Paul Gibson, Don S Davis, Lex Burnham, Matthew Bristol, Danny Bristol
release US 30.Jan.09, UK 17.Apr.09
09/US DreamWorks 1h27
The Uninvited
A tale of two sisters: Browning and Kebbel

strathairn banks
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Uninvited This remake of Kim Ji-woon's eerie thriller A Tale of Two Sisters creates a strong atmosphere of mystery, but never quite manages to fool us with all of the red herrings along the way.

Anna (Browning) has been locked up in a mental hospital since her mother (Massar) was killed in a horrible accident. But she's finally on her way home, where her concerned father Steven (Strathairn) is now living with her mother's nurse Rachael (Banks). Anna and her sister Alex (Kebbel) both suspect that Rachael had something to do with their mother's death, and set out to prove it. The cute boy (Moss) Anna has a crush on believes her, but the sheriff (McNulty) doesn't.

It's clear from the beginning that there's something else going on here, as the filmmakers inject loads of hints and cutaways, suggesting that what we are seeing is filtered through Anna's troubled mind. But by over-egging the creepiness, they diffuse any sense of discovery. We're never frightened; we just sit back and wait for the filmmakers to dribble the information to us and tell us what's really going on. And it's not very difficult to guess.

At least the cast members seem to be having fun. Browning is effectively brooding and disturbed in the central role, and the film focuses so finely on her that everyone else in essentially left in the film's margins. The only other character who registers is Rachael, and Banks really goes for it, playing the sinister, possibly villainous stepmom role for all it's worth. But since Anna is obviously losing her mind, what's real and imagined are always up for grabs.

The Guard Brothers direct this as a horror epic, with sweeping camerawork, slick production design, a full-bodied orchestral score and, in a nod to Stephen King, a Maine setting. They also fill each scene with telling, insinuating details, plus elements of Asian horror like visions of creepy children and an overall obsession with death. So it's somewhat frustrating that they never manage to scare or surprise us at all. The film is an intriguing, great-looking mystery, but not much more than that.

cert 15 themes, violence, language, innuendo 28.Jan.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall