For all of you "Loyal Readers" who just responded with a big "No Shit!", zark off and plotz. I hope a Hamster bites you! The reason I'm an idiot this week is that I just watched The Uninvited and didn't see the ending coming... in spite of the fact that I can see almost EVERY ending coming. This goes especially for The Uninvited because not only did I think, in hindsight, that I should've caught on a whole lot earlier, but I've... kind of seen this flick before. That is, I didn't realize I was watching a fairly faithful remake of A Tale of Two Sisters, a 2003 Korean Horror Flick I've not only seen, but actually own on DVD. The fact that I still didn't see the ending coming means that The Uninvited (again, a remake of A Tale of Two Sisters and NOT of the 2003 Korean Horror flick The Uninvited) was either very well done... or that I should've stopped scheduling the "mandatory" Beer Brunch in between Beer Breakfast and Beer Lunch at least five years ago.
Oh, that reminds me, hang on... it's Beer Supper Time!
Okay, I'm back.
In truth The Uninvited isn't a perfect film by any means, but really isn't bad either... meaning that what should have been yet another of my eternally hated "Bad Horror Remakes" has succeeded in "not sucking". First My Bloody Valentine 3-D and now The Uninvited! What is it with 2009, man? Dare I hold out hope that Friday the 13th might not eat aardvark ass? One can only dream!
The film focuses on young Anna Rydell (Emily Browning) who is having horrible nightmares that are only made worse by the fact that when she wakes up she's in a mental institution. Don't worry, don't worry, she's got a good reason for this. Ten months ago her decrepit mother died in a house fire, which naturally sent Anna into quite a depression. But it's been a good run and her doctor tells her it's time to go home and finish healing there.
Naturally she's looking forward to seeing dear old Dad (David Strathairn's Steven) and her sunbathing beauty older sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel). The person she's not crazy about seeing is her father's new lady love (who was her mother's old Nurse) Rachael Summers (Elizabeth Banks, looking exceptionally beautiful). Don't worry, as she's got a good reason for that as well, seeing as how Alex (and soon Anna) is convinced that Rachael is up to no good. And, while she's certainly very hot, just about everything she says has an underlying chill to it, implying that there's a cold fish underneath and that her considerable beauty is mixed with menace!
A series of unfortunate events start to unfold as the story progresses and it isn't long before Anna starts to experience strange things all around her. This includes, but is far from limited to, the appearance of her Mother's ghostly form warning her about the bitch who killed her and stole her husband. Lest this be cast as more of a feminine adaptation of Hamlet, Anna is also met by a trio of other dead people warning her about the same things... meaning her Sixth Sense is more than in tune!
Add to the mix that her pre-hospitalization boyfriend Matt (Jesse Moss) comes forth with new information on what really happened the night Anna's mother died and the girls are more than ready to http://www.worldsgreatestcritic.com/on their detective hats. Soon they discover that Rachael might not be just who she claims to be and has much more than just a checkered past. Their next goal is to expose Rachael quicker than they can say Janghwa, Hongryeon three times backward while drunk. They'd better do it quicker than that, though, because every second might lead them closer to their untimely deaths at the hands of their wicked stepmonster.
The questions keep coming, however, over what supernatural elements lie in that house and what Rachael Summers is really up to. Meanwhile, doubt is cast, much as it was in the original, on the other characters in the film who might have a few things to hide of their own.
Comparing The Uninvited to A Tale of Two Sisters is inevitable, if maybe a bit unfair. While screenwriters Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard do take a good bit of the core of Kim Jee-Woon's original screenplay (which, in turn, is based on a scary Korean Folk Tale), directors Charles Guard and Thomas Guard (credited as The Guard Brothers) create much more of an American Thriller than the paced, almost art-house suspense film that the Korean movie was. The end result is both less complex and more accessible than the first film. Quite a few of the puzzle pieces that lead to the final twist seem to make no sense at the time, but are given validation in the dÚnouement. Other elements come off in the final analysis as convenient (or contrived) coincidences that do not a Horror Thriller make.
Again, these fractured fragments do make a complete puzzle in the end, whether legitimately presented in the first place or not. The (right) Guard Brothers do a pretty good job of sleight of hand in The Uninvited, keeping what should be obvious firmly in the enigma category while tossing the seemingly mysterious way out into the forefront. Though the script they had to work with was a bit easier on the mind-bends than Kim Ji-woon's original, but many of the self-same things happen here for very different reasons than they did in the original and in some cases, in a different order. Yes, the remake is Americanized with a heapin' helpin' of added elements to appeal to the movie-going masses, but all told it works much better than most horror remakes out there and, in fact, what passes for most American horror flicks these days anyway. Then again, the Guard Brothers and their affiliated screenwriters might be less likely to be accused of pulling a fast one with their much more straightforward (and simplified) film.
The Uninvited was executive produced by notables Ivan Reitman, Walter F. Parkes and Laurie Macdonald with Michael Grillo, Tom Pollock and Tanaka Riyoko. The main cast is supported by Dean Paul Gibson (as Anna's shrink Dr. Silberling), Don S. Davis who, for some reason, shows up for about two seconds worth of screen time (just long enough for someone to say "Dude, was that Don S. Davis?") and such creepy, creepy weirdoes as Heather Doerksen, Lex Burnham, Matthew Bristol and Danny Bristol as... well, watch it and you'll see.
While The Uninvited might not go down as any kind of mind-blowing, genre-reshaping psychological thriller (remake or not, it's hard not to note that this angle has been tried before), but it's also not the bottom of the barrel when it comes to modern horror flicks, particularly the current crop of remakes. Especially, but not exclusively, because Arielle Kebbel looks amazing in her bikini. Seriously, folks, with actors like Banks and Strathairn, just about any movie would be at least worth watching! As to the inevitable comparisons between this film and A Tale of Two Sisters, there is a lot less "heavy lifting" in the remake, helping to make The Uninvited more palatable to an international audience, but the final result isn't quite diluted enough to deserve a sorry spot in your recycle bin instead of your DVD Rack. In fact, I'd give The Uninvited something like Three and One Half Stars out of Five. I highly recommend the original A Tale of Two Sisters (AKA: Janghwa, Hongryeon) for a smart, complicated, haunting and surreal thriller. But if you're in the mood for a good, old-fashioned cheeseburger, as opposed to a full-course Hanjeongsik with a varied array of banchan on the side, you're more than welcome to check out The Uninvited. But don't take my word for it. Like I said, I just realized... I'm an idiot.
See you in the next haunted reel!
As opposed to a full course blast of brilliance...
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