A bastardized remake of the Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters, The Uninvited stars Australian actress Emily Browning (Ghost Ship, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) as American teen Anna, recently released from a sanitarium after she attempted suicide following her mother’s death in a tragic boathouse explosion (seriously). She returns home to find her older sister, Alex (Arielle Kebbel), still angered by Anna’s supposed “abandonment” — while kid sis was away, their dad, Steven (David Strathairn), started banging the hot live-in nanny, Rachael (Elizabeth Banks), to help cope with his grief.
Shortly after coming home, Anna begins experiencing weird PG-13 Unscary visions: mysterious dead children appear at the local diner and the funeral of a friend. The bell which her mother once wore around her wrist to signal for aid begins ringing in the night, and her mother’s ravaged body begins appearing in her room, creeping toward her, pointing an accusing finger in Rachael’s direction while screaming “Murderer!” All of which leads Anna to believe that poor, hot Rachael is the quintessential Evil Stepmother (or Stepmother-To-Be, as she hasn’t married Steven yet, although that little nuptial is impending) and must be stopped at all costs!
Usually, I try not to spoil the plot of a film while reviewing it, because God gave us all free will, and it should be your choice to use it when deciding to go see a film or rent a DVD after reading one of our reviews on this site. In this case, however, I’m going to issue a BIG SPOILER WARNING, because this film is truly too Unbearably stupid for anyone to sit through.
It turns out that big sis Alex is actually dead and Anna’s still psycho, a lame plot device upon which so much hingesÂ that the shelf bearing the film’s loosely hanging credibility comes crashing down under its own weight, due primarily to the inept direction of the brothers Charles and Thomas Guard (Round About Five, Inside-Out). Being that star Browning is just on the cusp of legal age, the brothers seem to be in a mood to reach down deep and find their inner kid-toucher, rushing to place her and Kebbel in bikinis, with multiple scenes of them splashing in the water, sharing finger-shushing upskirt shots both young ladies were more than likely unaware of, and making certain to have panty shot closeups as Browning changes clothes — or in one instance, beingÂ forcefully changed as stepmom-to-be Rachael drugs her and undresses her, ultimately ending up almost on top of her. There’s a lot of pretend lesbianism in the film as well, to stir the loins of young lads hoping to view theÂ movie with a date and get in a quick boob feel from the false jumps, all while big sis Alex tells Anna “no funny stuff” as they share a bed, and later discover Rachael’s vibrator together and steal its batteries.
Sadly, part of the fault of the story’s structural failure rests with Banks (Scrubs, W.) and Strathairn (TheÂ Spiderwick Chronicles, The Bourne Ultimatum), who can’t help but react to Alex’s presence inÂ at leastÂ threeÂ key scenes — although, truthfully, if the directors don’t set an actor’s marks properly so as to allow them to move past an invisible character without moving around them, then a scene can’t help but fail to have the impact it should. Also, screenwriters Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro, and Carlo Bernard are so damned lazy they can’t even be bothered to name the diseaseÂ from which Anna’s mom suffered beforeÂ she died; she was just “sick.” This tends to make Anna’s mom a plot device, rather than a character.
The problem with using the “twist” of Alex being dead is that in order for viewers to buy into it, scenes withÂ her need to be shot a certain way so that upon a second viewingÂ (shudder!) audience members can spot the little pickups and go “Aha, I see now!” Yet the Guard brothers don’t shoot Alex’s scenes in such a way to include the necessary McGuffin; they only think they did, and have managed to delude themselves thoroughlyÂ into believing inÂ their own masterful skill, as is evidenced by watching the behind the scenes documentary Unlocking the Uninvited. Honestly, this peek behind the scenes is so laughable, it seems in some ways to be a parody of a behind-the-curtain documentary, in the vein of Spinal Tap. The notion thatÂ producer Doug Davison could be told about a “great Korean film”, and acquire the rights to remaking it sight unseen, explains a lot about the mental retardation running rampant in Hollywood these days, in relation to all the crappy J-, HK-, and K-horror remakes being churned out.
Then again,Â the Guard brothers’ admission that they chose to remake the script without seeing the original film, coproducer Laurie MacDonald’s flat-out admission that the original was “difficult to follow,” “ambiguous,” and that they had to basically dumb it down for American audiences, coupled with her husband’sÂ nonsensicalÂ reasoning that “there’s a movie that you buy, and then there’s a movie you develop,Â but then there’s the movie you make”Â will tend to make you weep for the future of horror films — or films of any genre, for that matter, if this is the mentality with which movies will continue to get made.Â Then again, the fact that Davison was also the producer of shitty movies such as Quarantine, The Strangers, The Eye, and Shutter explains a lot about the lack of quality control on the set and in the editing room.
The deleted scenes on the disc tend to be better than the film itself, and I could have stood to watch these over and over for 87 minutes instead. The alternate ending, with the exception of one line of dialogue, is anything but. The saddest thing about The Univited might be that while the film sucks nuts the size of King Kong’s, all the actors do their best to turn in credible performances. Now if only the cast had been bestowed with a better film in which to display their talents.