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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > The Uninvited

MOVIE REVIEWS

THE UNINVITED (2009)

Starring Emily Browning, Elizabeth Banks, Arielle Kebbel, David Strathairn, Maya Massar, Kevin McNulty, Jesse Moss, Dean Paul Gibson, Don S. Davis, Lex Burnham, Matthew Bristol, Danny Bristol and Heather Doerksen.

Screenplay by Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard.

Directed by Charles and Thomas Guard.

Distributed by DreamWorks Pictures.  87 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

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The Uninvited

It is about time that someone did an intervention on Elizabeth Banks’ career.  In just over two months, she has been in four new movies (and one video release) – none of which has really taken advantage of her talents. 

She was underused on one comedy (Role Models), rose above mediocre material in two others (Zack and Miri Make a Porno and the Eddie Murphy video Meet Dave).  She did fine work in a small supporting role in a historical drama – playing Laura Bush in Oliver Stone’s W.  Now she is the fiancée from hell in this formulaic little thriller. 

That isn’t to say that The Uninvited is a bad film or that she does a poor job in her role.  In fact, the movie is a better-than-average genre piece, mostly due to a legitimately surprising ending which props up some pretty standard setups. 

Banks does fine as a slightly generic bogeywoman – it’s just a rather thankless role.  All she is really allowed to do is smile charmingly or stare daggers – basically act suspicious as all hell.  After seeing the climax, I suspect that on repeat viewings the character may have a lot more levels and shadings than the audience recognizes on the first go-around, but my initial gut reaction is that the role is a bit of a waste of a normally captivating screen presence. 

The movie itself is a remake of a Korean horror film called Janghwa, Hongryeon (A Tale of Two Sisters). Not exactly timely – it is about a few years after the whole Ring/Grudge/Dark Water Asian-horror remake trend sort of sputtered out.  However, The Uninvited shares several of the benchmarks of the style – the shuddering, creaking ghosts crawling up in the dark, the slightly muddled storyline and the against-the-grain climax. 

It is the story of Anna (Emily Browning), a teen returning home from a mental hospital months after her mother is killed in an explosion.  The mother – who was chronically ill even before the accident – had a beautiful nurse named Rachael (Banks) who is now preparing to marry Anna’s father (David Strathairn).  Anna and her older sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) quickly become certain that the nurse killed their mother and set out to prove it.  Suddenly, bodies start to pile up and no one believes Anna because of her recent stay in the sanitarium. 

Browning is terrific in this complicated role – she has the most flashy scenes and is able to segue from horror to joy to confusion to resignation to steely determination.  Kebbel is just fine in a much more one-note characterization, but as the father Strathairn – normally a very reliable actor – appears to be phoning it in during his few scenes. 

Looking back, I’m not sure how well the ending holds together – just because it did capture me enough by surprise that I did not notice any foreshadowings of the climax.  Of course, I am giving the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt that they were actually there.  Even looking back I don’t particularly remember any, but I guess it would be only fair to watch it again knowing the direction the story was heading.  I hope they are indeed there.  I would hate to think that the nifty ending, which pretty much saved The Uninvited from mediocrity, was a cheat. 

However, on a gut level, The Uninvited mostly worked.  Even if it was just a sleight-of-hand trick, it was a pretty good one.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 31, 2009.

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Copyright ©2009   PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 31, 2009.