There are all kinds of ghosts in the world. Some come from beyond the veil separating the lands of the living and the dead, and others exist in the haunted house of our mind. Depending on the person, the latter can be much scarier than the former, and sometimes it can be hard to tell which kind of ghost youre dealing with.
Thats the situation Anna finds herself in. Unable to deal with witnessing the death of her mother, Anna had to be sequestered in a mental institution for a few months. After completing her therapy, she comes home to find that her father has become romantically involved with her mothers former caretaker. The only comfort Anna finds is with her sullen older sister, Alex. And if that wasnt enough, Anna begins having visions and nightmares which make her suspect that her mothers death wasnt an accident.
The concept of having an emotionally disturbed person seeing ghosts has been done beforeâ€”and quite frankly, done better. When used properly it creates an unreliable narrator and keeps the audience constantly guessing whether or not what were being shown is real or a figment of that characters imagination. Unfortunately, The Uninvited does not utilize this powerful dramatic opportunity. Anna and Alex both far too easily accept that what Anna experiences are real ghosts, thereby throwing out any possibility for dramatic tension except for the interaction between Anna and her fathers girlfriend, Rachel.
Which is not to say that the scenes between Anna and Rachel arent good; in fact, they are the best parts of the movie for me. Although every member of the cast does a great job, Elizabeth Banks steals the movie for me with her downright creepy performance as Rachel. Every word she speaks, every gesture she makes contains a veiled, ambiguous threat which youre not quite sure if its intentional or if youre somehow misreading her. If the entire movie had been built around that same ambiguous sense of threat then it would have worked much better for me.
It all comes down to a question of atmosphere, and while The Uninvited does have some nice touches, it seems positively clumsy in its execution compared to the Asian movie its based on, A Tale of Two Sisters. Like many Asian horror movies, A Tale of Two Sisters excelled at creating an overwhelming, almost suffocating atmosphere of fear and oppression. It did this through the expert use of color, light and shadow, staging, and camera work. Thats not to say that The Uninvited doesnt use those effects wellâ€”just not as well as the original.
The Uninvited had all the right elements of being a quality ghost story. The plot was there, the characters were there, as were good actors to play them, but when compared to the original it falls flat too many times and misses too many opportunities to create something truly frightening and unnerving. In this case, the real ghost haunting this movie is the original version.
The movie was presented in Widescreen Enhanced for 16:9 TVs with the audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround with English and Spanish language tracks and English, French, and Spanish subtitles. Both the audio and visual transfer quality were excellent.
Unlocking the Uninvited (19:00) – This is pretty much a standard behind-the-scenes featurette, but I do have a couple of problems. First of all, they give away the entire plot in the first five minutes, which isnt a huge problem, but if someoneâ€”for whatever reasonâ€”watched the extras before the movie then the film would be ruined. Also, I find it disturbing that the people involved bought the film rights without seeing the original movie. Then, they begin subtly insulting the original Korean film by saying that it was too “difficult” and “ambiguous”â€”basically giving the impression that it was too intelligent.
Deleted Scenes (5:37) – These scenes were interesting, but they dont really add anything to the movie, which is probably why they were taken out.
Alternate Ending (00:51) – This really wasnt an alternative ending as much as it was a clarification on one minor detail.
This wasnt a bad movie as much as it was a disappointing one. Do yourself a favor and watch the original, Korean version. Youll be happy that you did. Mildly recommended.
Dreamworks Pictures presents The Uninvited. Directed by The Guard Brothers. Starring Emily Browning, Elizabeth Banks, Arielle Kebbel, and David Strathairn. Written by Craig Rosenberg and Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard. Running time: 87 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: April 28, 2009. Available at Amazon.
Tags: A Tale of Two Sisters, Elizabeth Banks