A pale imitation
Ji-Woon Kim’s A Tale of Two Sisters is one of the better horror films of the last 10 years. Upon discovering that Hollywood would be remaking that gothic classic from South Korea, I cringed. Two Sisters is as dark as things get—a hard R-rated film not just for violence, but also for unrelenting psychological terror. My trepidation increased when I saw that the remake, stupidly titled The Uninvited, was given the dreaded PG-13, which meant it would be a horror film that, more or less, pulls punches.
To their credit, the Guard Brothers (co-directing siblings Charles and Thomas) almost pull it off. Their film is relatively useless to those who watched and loved the original, but audiences new to the story might get a few good chills out of it. Not bad, but its intentions are too obvious in spots, and at a brief 87-minutes, it feels a little rushed and incomplete.
The Rydell family is going through tough times. Daughter Anna (Emily Browning) has done a stint at a mental hospital after the death of her sick mother in a house fire. Her dad (David Strathairn) wasted no time moving onto other carnal business, bedding his wife’s mysterious nurse Rachael (Elizabeth Banks). Anna’s older sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) is resentful that Anna’s stay at the hospital essentially left her alone to listen to her dad and the new girl having sex three times a night.
Immediately upon returning, Anna is haunted by strange visions: ghostly children underneath the stove, teenaged boys with horrifically broken backs, and the ghost of her gnarled-up mother screaming “Murder!” Surely, events that took place leading to her mother’s death are not as they seem.
Was the fire an accident? Did the nurse and daddy conspire to end the life of the sick mother so that they could live in peace and have sex a lot? It sure seems that way to Anna, who teams with her sister to find out just what transpired to end their mother’s life. Rachael’s odd, controlling, sometimes psycho behavior doesn’t help her case.
The original film contained a big twist, and The Uninvited is faithful to it. Banks, a decent actress, seems to be overacting, or just acting badly at times. Some of what she’s doing makes sense by film’s end. Still, just because it makes sense in the end doesn’t mean it’s all that worth watching.
Browning, who you may know from the screen adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, has a nice face for horror flicks. It’s expressive, with just the right touch of melancholy. She has a tough part, and she does well with it for most of the running time. Kebbel is OK as the slightly mischievous older sister, sneaking out for beer parties and giving her dad headaches. The always reliable Strathairn does a good job presenting us with a man we should hate but somehow garners sympathy.
One thing the Guard Brothers do that doesn’t help is constantly telegraphing their scary “jolt” moments. Things get silent, a character walks around looking disoriented, so we know something is about to happen. The pattern repeats itself to the point where nothing is all that surprising.
The Uninvited doesn’t slander the masterpiece A Tale of Two Sisters, it’s just not nearly as good. Due to the soft pitch horror approach and the co-directors’ sometimes obvious style, it fails as a standalone piece. The Guard Brothers get decent performances out of their cast, and they can certainly make a good-looking movie. If you haven’t seen the original, you might find this worthy of your time. Big fans of the original would probably benefit from staying away.