Emily Browning, Arielle Kebbel, David Strathairn, Elizabeth Banks, Jesse Moss
The Guard Brothers
Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro
I was ready.
I'd already been thinking of witty, scathing lines for my review of "The Uninvited," the latest PG-13 remake of an Asian horror flick.
Despite it's promising cast, I'd suffered through the film's dreadful trailers and had, quite literally, no doubt "The Uninvited" would be my first "F" bomb of the year.
Oops. I was wrong.
"The Uninvited" isn't, by any means, a brilliant horror film. In fact, despite it's origins in 2003's Korean "A Tale of Two Sisters," "The Uninvited" isn't really a horror film at all.
"The Uninvited" is more chilling than horrifying, suspenseful than outright terrifying.
While gorehounds aren't likely to be pleased at all, fans of old 80's psychological horror are likely to find "The Uninvited" a trip down a rather uninviting memory lane.
The film centers around Anna (Emily Browning, "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events"), a troubled young girl just released from a year-long stay in a mental institution following the traumatic death of her mother. Anna returns home to her lively older sister (Arielle Kebbel, "John Tucker Must Die"), her loving father Steven (David Strathairn, "Good Night,and Good Luck") and her father's new girlfriend and, disturbingly, her mother's former nurse, Rachael (Elizabeth Banks, "Zack & Miri").
Anna has few memories about her mother's death, particularly disturbing given the apparitions that haunt her and seem to be revealing that Rachael may very well have a darker side. When a neighbor boy (Jesse Moss) shows up and claims to be a witness to the events of that night, "The Uninvited" becomes even more uncomfortable.
Dan Landin's cinematography turns "The Uninvited" into a much better film than one might expected, complemented by far better acting than is usually present in such a film. The goings on within "The Uninvited" journey between unseemingly sunny and mysteriously dark and shady often within a moments' notice.
Co-directed by brothers Charles and Thomas Guard, "The Uninvited" is the kind of film that will be immediately dismissed by many contemporary horror fans used to having their gore and violence handed to them without any shadings. However, for those of us who remember the absolute chill in experiencing the build up of anxiety and fear in the psychologically frightening films of the late 80's will revel in how much the Guard Brothers get right with "The Uninvited."
Of course, it doesn't hurt to be gifted with a strong cast.
Emily Browning offers an expressive, involving performance that often communicates fear with a facial gesture or her body language.
It's no secret I've long been of fan of the underrated Kebbel, whose energy and sincerity is put to good use here as Anna's older sister.
Similarly, David Strathairn takes a throwaway role and brings the appropriate blend of menace and warmth as a father who always seems to have something going on behind those eyes.
The performance I most feared, because I love her but found her performance in the trailer dreadful, was that of Elizabeth Banks. Banks, who has appeared in both "W." and "Zack & Miri" in the past year, again proves her versatility as an actress in bringing to life a woman who is impossibly perky yet infinitely frightening.
Far from perfect, "The Uninvited" is still much more satisfying than one might expect. Behind the inventive and intelligent direction of the Guard Brothers and a strong cast, "The Uninvited" is, well, surprisingly inviting.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic