The Uninvited

Director    Charles Guard, Thomas Guard
Starring    Emily Browning, Arielle Kebbel, David Strathrairn, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Massar
Release    30 JAN (US) 24 APR (UK)    Certificate 15
3 stars


6th May 2009

Yawn. That's how excited I was about The Uninvited. Not even bothered enough to think up a witty intro. Fact is, even for a man who's often frightened by his own toes, modern horror movies fill me with roughly as much terror as receiving a free pizza. I am happy to report, then, that this is barely a horror movie at all, and what's more, it's actually a fairly enjoyable - if unadventurous - whodunit.

The Uninvited is a remake of Korean horror A Tale Of Two Sisters, despite the fact that at no time is the story improved by scary kids hiding under ovens. Remove the pale-faced munchkins and crab-walking corpses and lo and behold, you still have a perfectly serviceable thriller with enough puff to make it over the finish line.

We first meet Anna (Browning) as she departs from the looney bin, dreams of her mother's mysterious, fiery death still rattling around her consciousness. Upon return to the family boat house, she's welcomed by sister Alex (Kebbell) and father Steven (Good Night And Good Luck's David Strathrairn), who breaks it to her gently that his new live-in squeeze is mom's hot nurse Rachel (Banks). Despite Banks' ill-advised attempts at getting down wiv da kidz, the sisters dig some dirt and convince themselves that nursey was the one responsible for flambéing mother dearest. Cue witch hunt with predictably messy results.

If it sounds overly familiar - didn't they already make this movie with Indiana Jones and call it What Lies Beneath? - then don't worry: The Uninvited is lightweight enough not to outstay its welcome. The central murder mystery engages on a basic level, drops cryptic clues with gay abandon (character say things like "I know what happened that night..." then turn up dead the next morning) and delivers a thumping right hook of a last reel twist. It's more than you can say for atrocities like The Unborn, which started off boring and actually got worse. At least The Uninvited has the grace to get better as it goes.

Thanks to some canny casting, performances aren't nearly as awful as they could have been. Browning, a young lip-pouter in the Kat Dennings/Angelina Jolie mould, is solid, refusing to let her 'tortured' character become whiny and irritating (unless I'm mistaken, I don't believe she says "But I'm not crazy!" once, which must be a first for an ex-mental patient in a cheap horror movie). Not much can be said for screen sis Kebbel, who can't deliver her expository lines as expertly as she wears her bikini, but Strathrairn dumps a truck-load of gravitas on the movie's lawn before bolting with his cheque and Banks gives good bitch as the villainess (hubba, and indeed, hubba).

The Uninvited is actually quite fun when you get into it; it's kind of like reading a Hardy Boys adventure book to a child and wanting to flick to the last page in advance. Cynics like me won't be able to watch without passing comment at every lame utterance and plot hole but it's an easy 87 minutes and the set-up practically invites you to pick holes in the wafer-thin storyline. It's not original, it's not especially clever and the twist won't make you want to watch it again, but hey - at least it wasn't The Unborn.

More:  Horror  Thriller  Ghosts  Murder
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