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An Inviting Horror Film

Movie title: The Uninvited (2009)
Grade: B- (3 stars)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: A girl and her sister begin to suspect a nurse who is their father’s lover of murdering their sick mother.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Atop the list of concerns of every horror movie watcher are two factors. One is the gore factor. The other, and more important of the factors, is the element of fear. Am I going to go home and have nightmares? Is there going to be that temptation to sleep with the light on for the next couple of nights? Am I wasting my money on another in a now long line of special effects-sporting, sputtering failures that are grim but without a reaper?

In The Uninvited, starring Emily Browning as “Anna” and Elizabeth Banks as “Rachael,” we answer these questions with a “no,” “no,” and a “no.” You are hereby invited to see a film that boasts more story than scary. The acting may only get a passing grade, but surprising believability on everyone’s part gets bonus points.

The last ten months for Anna have been rough. It’s been hard dealing with her mother’s (Maya Massar) untimely death, so hard that she succumbed to a breakdown. Now back at home, she’s forced to pick up the pieces and begin again in dealing with what so plagued her mind before—the new woman in dad’s life, Rachael. Having only her dear sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) to emotionally fall back on, reconnecting to her old life will be difficult, especially now that disturbing things are fighting for her attention.

“They” are trying to tell her something. Specters, dead children, the disembodied spirits of slain family members crying out from the grave…they have something to say to Anna. Who are they? What do they want? The messages are not happy ones. The clues, the voices, the facts…they all seem to point to one regrettable conclusion—mom’s death was no accident as believed by police! All fingers point to the new gal in pop’s life. What will happen to the two girls who know the truth? How will they avoid becoming the new targets?

What the film may lack in shiver-inducing fear it makes up for in a ripe plot and one big, heaping plot-twist. With a very clear vision in mind, Charles and Thomas Guard lay out for us a suspenseful story and an on-the-edge-of-your-seat viewing experience in this – a remake of the 2003 Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters – with some called-for western adaptations.

The rare and forgivable instances of wanting dialogue are there. The admittedly unoriginal special effects (and some bad makeup artist work) become apparent. Point deductions notwithstanding, The Uninvited manages to draw out suspense and a dark aura fittingly made use of in such an ominous thriller. A lesser-known-but-competent cast gives the viewer a feeling of life-likeness that would otherwise have been out of reach.

What really stands out in The Uninvited is not what is seen, but what is not seen. You get none of the usual kids in the woods having sex and getting killed, melodramatic screams and the close-ups that go with them, nor yet the cell phone sluts harping about not being able to get a signal prelude to a murder. You get a unique take in a presentation that deserves some attention being that it comes from a genre chock-full of gory unoriginality and threadbare clich├ęs. For that reason, The Uninvited is owed a nod of respect even if the supernatural cutbacks don’t float your boat. Personally, I’ll take a plot-twist over a twisted carcass any day!

(JH)

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Directors: Charles Guard, Thomas Guard
Starring: Emily Browning “Anna,” Arielle Kebbel “Alex,” David Strathairn “Steven,” Elizabeth Banks “Rachael,” Maya Massar “Mom,” Kevin McNulty “Sheriff Emery,” Jesse Moss “Matt,” Dean Paul Gibson “Dr. Silberling,” Don S. Davis “Mr. Henson”
Genre: Horror / Thriller / Crime / Drama

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