Reviewed by Nomad
Starring Emily Browning, Arielle Kebbel, David Strathairn, Elizabeth Banks
Directed by The Guard Brothers
We are no strangers to PG-13 horror. If anything, we pureblood horror fans are veterans of that war-torn landscape. We’ve also cast backward, accusatory glances at the commodity known as the remake. If that remake is from a film of Asian origin, we tighten our eyes like a noose within that glare. “>The Uninvited is guilty of all three perceived offenses out of the gate, but being that it’s PG-13, we can assume the film was not looking for OUR love to begin with. A formulaic commercial screams, “Bring me your children with nothing better to do on a Friday night!!” Little did those children suspect that they may leave with a new nightmare to scar their psyches.
After a horrific accident that claimed her ailing mother, Anna Rydell (Browning) returns home from a stint under psychiatric care to her sister, father, and his new girlfriend who has moved in and made herself at home. Alex (Kebbel), the rebellious sister who spends the majority of the film in a bikini top, is happy to have a partner in crime who will join her in getting under the interloping girlfriend’s skin. After all, it’s only been 10 months since their mother’s death. I suppose some people just mourn … differently. Meanwhile, the girlfriend Rachael (Banks) is making her own bid to woo Anna over to the dark side, sharing awkward moments and inappropriate stories with a girl who only months ago attempted suicide. So where is dad in the middle of this war of wills? It seems he’s more concerned with the release of his new book and screwing his new girlfriend (loudly). Hell of a guy.
Now we’re waiting for the usual black-eyed apparitions to appear and point a bony finger at creepy Rachael groaning “Muuuuurdererrrrrr”, as advertised in the trailer, while we groan back “Seeeeen thissssss befooooore!” But then something magical happens. The scene gets quiet. The very young, innocent looking Anna settles into her bed. A sound in the hall, a jiggle of the door handle. What?! Can it be???? IT’S HORROR!!!!
Like manna from heaven, a chill shoots up my back. I lean forward and the shot goes from tense to terror. I’ll even go so far as to say it is fantastically terrifying. Amazing what a superb actress and a director who understands the basic elements of horror can do with a scene. Astoundingly, the tag team would repeat this feat at least 3 more times. The little girls who enjoy going to these films to pretend they are scared and scream loudly are in for one hell of a shock. These are not raw jump scares. This is the monster that knocks on the door and then waits patiently for you to open it yourself. To quote a song in a brand new context… “Hello, Darkness, my old friend!” We missed you terribly.
Meanwhile, in between these moments of creep-nirvana, the movie is unfolding like Nancy Drew and the Case of the Twitching Corpse; or maybe you prefer Sisterhood of the Traveling, Bloodthirsty Ghouls. This is a film at odds with itself. Both Browning and Kebbel come off 100% genuine in their roles alongside Elizabeth Banks, who shifts from unsettling to bitchy seamlessly, and the incredible David Strathairn (as Dad) who consistently appears to be barely keeping himself composed amid the chaos. It’s all very refreshing in this type of horror film, or any film for that matter, but these adept actors must double as acrobats, navigating through oddly placed pieces of misinformation and forced plot points that crumble into gaping holes ending in a twist that you won’t see coming but will make you groan at the top of your lungs with utter agony at the cop-out before you.
It almost feels like this movie was created by two separate people. One, a filmmaker seeking to surprise a horror-loving public with a top-notch cast and moments of sheer terror. The other, an inexperienced hack borrowing from the cookie cutter remakes that have marched before him, void of an original thought. One screams for a fresh perspective while the other whines “Come ONN!! I want to be BAAAAD!!!” This film practically FIGHTS to be awful. It’s so perplexing; you may hurt yourself attempting to do the math.
Cinematically, The Uninvited packs in some impressive imagery that will keep you engaged, even while the dialogue suggests you’d be better off sleeping. Teenage boys will be happy to hear they also went to great lengths to get our two teenage (looking) leads as scantly clad as possible, as often as possible, without becoming laughable. Hell, you even get an explosion! If the girls were a little older, had a little dog, and ran around a bit, this could be a Michael Bay film. Creepy fucking spookies are coming!
If you were looking for a straight-up horror film that chases you down those dark corridors the whole time, you’ve come to the wrong haunted house. If you were hoping for an above average PG-13 scarefest (which isn’t saying much), you might be pleasantly surprised. If you had your sights set on perky, underage looking girls following clues left by the dead to catch a seemingly murderous future stepmom and didn’t care how that might pan out — for anyone involved — then you’ve hit paydirt.
2 out of 5
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