April 24, 2009
In the last year, actress Elizabeth Banks’ career has really taken off with appearances in high profile films like Definitely, Maybe, W., and Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Thrown into this mix is a modest horror film called The Uninvited (2009) that, despite being hyped to the sky by MTV, had a brief theatrical run and was pretty savaged by critics. Has the moviegoing public finally gotten tired of seeing Banks in too many films too soon, like what happened to Jude Law a few years ago? Or maybe it’s just that The Uninvited wasn’t too good?
Anna (Browning) is troubled by dreams about her dead mother who perished in a tragic fire. She’s been released from a mental hospital after trying to kill herself but she still has unresolved issues that her doctor says she has to work out on her own. It’s only been ten months since the accident and her father (Strathairn) has already shacked up with another woman named Rachel (Banks), who was her mother’s caregiver.
Anna’s reunion with her sister Alex (Kebbel) gets off to a rocky start as she harbors resentment for being left alone with their father and his new girlfriend while Anna stayed at the hospital. The first night home, Anna dreams about the charred remains of her mother creeping up on her. Meanwhile, Rachel has wasted no time making the place her own, much to the chagrin of Anna and Alex. It doesn’t take too long for the sisters to surmise that the fire was no accident and that Rachel had something to do with it.
Elizabeth Banks does a fine job as dad’s girlfriend who maintains a sunny facade but underneath is pure evil. It allows her to have fun playing mind games with Anna and Alex. Banks gets to sink her teeth into a malevolent role that has been played by the likes of Piper Laurie (Carrie), Jessica Lange (Hush), and Diane Lane (The Glass House). Emily Browning and Arielle Kebbel get to do the Nancy Drew thing as they try to dig up dirt on Rachel and piece together what happened the night their mother died. They are quite believable as sisters and have a nice rapport.
The filmmakers waste no time setting up the conflict between the sisters and Rachel. Early on, the directors keep us guessing if The Uninvited is going to be a traditional thriller with the evil stepmom or a supernatural thriller with the vengeful ghost of the mother? The filmmakers apply the usual scare tactics with sudden jolts but nothing truly horrifying, more like the fleeting thrills one gets on a rollercoaster. The typical nightmarish imagery is duly trotted out (keyholes that drip blood, creepy dead people coming back from the grave, and so on) but it isn’t anything that hasn’t been done a million times before.
If you’ve seen enough of these kinds of films, it is pretty easy to predict what happens next in The Uninvited except for a nutty twist ending which kind of comes out of left field. Although, in the case of this film that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s something pleasant in familiarity and The Uninvited certainly delivers in this respect.
There is an “Alternate Ending” which spells things out a little bit more but in a completely unnecessary way.
Also included are four deleted scenes with more of Anna’s homecoming. There is another scene between Anna and Alex talking about visions of their mother. There is a nice, tense scene between Anna and Rachel. Finally, we see Anna and Alex getting ready for a dinner party with their folks and their friends.
“Unlocking The Uninvited” is a making of featurette that gives away some major plot points so you should watch the film first. Cast and crew talk about how this film differs from the original Korean version. Emily Browning and Arielle Kebbel talk about how they were cast and how it was working together.