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Feature


Following the untimely and explosive death of her sickly mother Anna (Emily Browning) spends several months undergoing major therapy in a mental asylum. She’s released back to her father (David Strathairn), but is bummed to find that her mother’s nurse (Elizabeth Banks) has also moved into the house, and is looking to fill the role of stepmother. Anna and her older sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) both distrust the nurse, and following a few visits from her mother’s ghost Anna starts looking into the uninvited woman’s sordid past.

Uninvited, The
Sometimes not doing research leads to a very confusing viewing experience, especially when you make a bunch of assumptions. First off I confused The Uninvited with another supposed Korean horror remake called The Unborn. I remembered the ads to The Unborn pretty well, and was very confused by the lack of babies. My second mistake was assuming that The Uninvited was a remake of The Uninvited, which seems like an easy mistake to make. These are both simple mistakes to make, but they definitely coloured my entire movie watching experience. I figured that I wasn’t watching The Unborn pretty early into the film, so that particular confusion wasn’t a huge deal, but problem number two drove me crazy until a few days later when I finally sat down to do my review.

I hadn’t seen Lee Su-yeon’s The Uninvited, so I looked up the wikipedia page so I could compare the films. It turns out they have almost nothing in common. This triggered memories of my mindset while watching the Guard Brothers film. I kept saying aloud ‘This is a lot like A Tale of Two Sisters’ (you can ask the people I watched it with for verification), and wondering how Korea could’ve possibly produced two such similar films about evil step mothers. I figured that so many of Japan’s post Ringu movies follow the same plot that I just wrote it off as a cultural issue I didn’t understand. But lo and behold, it turns out The Uninvited (that’s the 2009 one, not to be confused with the 2003 one, or the 1999 one, or the 1993 one, or the 1944 one, or one of the three that came out in 2008) was produced under the original title of A Tale of Two Sisters.

Uninvited, The
I could cut this whole review short right now by simply begging the viewer to watch the original A Tale of Two Sisters instead, but should probably be a little more specific. As a man that’s seen a lot of post- Ringu Asian ghost stories, and one who didn’t really like any of them all that much, I count A Tale of Two Sisters as my favourite in the genre (if we’re calling post- Ringu Asian ghost story a genre). It’s a gorgeous film, and it’s a graceful film. The scares work, and the dread is inescapable. The plot is a little muddled towards the end, but the overall production is nearly immaculate. In contrast the ‘remake’ is broad, predictable (even outside of the expectations of a remake), and frankly not very frightening at all.

That’s mostly what I got for your review of The Uninvited, which beyond comparisons to the original source material is pretty much entirely unremarkable. The cast is pretty good, even the miscast Elizabeth Banks, but the dialogue is often awkward to the point of stupidity, and the pacing verges on glacial, even though there’s hardly any plot to plough through. The directors take some effective steps towards separating their film from the glut of similar looking Asian horror remakes. Their camera placement and movement is interesting without calling too much attention to itself, and the lighting is vaguely spooky throughout. Their grasp of jump scares seemed to work for the people I was watching the film with, but unfortunately didn’t get even a twitch out of me.

Uninvited, The

Video


The Guard Brothers have nothing on the Baroque excesses of Kim Ji-woon, who infused A Tale of Two Sisters with some of the most stunning shadowed images in Asian horror, but they are the film’s finest asset. The lighting choices are mostly about accentuating the darkness rather than the highlights, so there isn’t a whole lot of super high detail throughout. Sharp highlights, like the sun bouncing off of waves, sometimes bloom a bit, and medium shot edges are a bit noisy, more so than should appear on a Blu-ray release. Colours are largely muted, and frankly kind of bland, but are relatively clean, and reasonably realistic. The advantages of high definition likely lie in the transfers overall cleanliness, but I can’t imagine that the DVD version looks much different, save maybe some less solid black levels. Perhaps details are easier to make out in hi-def darkness.

Audio


The film’s audio design is well balanced, creating an effective contrast between the eerier quiet elements and the big bang scare elements, but most of the fright-play is delegated to the centre channel along with the dialogue. There are some chirping birds and lapping waves found in the rear channels during outdoor scenes, but outside of Anna’s dream sequences there isn’t a lot of sound effects work found in the stereo and surround channels. Composer Christopher Young is another of the film’s strong points. Young doesn’t exact his classic Hellraiser score, but does call back to it a bit with the larger than life deep strings, which are probably the Dolby TrueHD track’s most effective and prominent asset.

Uninvited, The

Extras


‘Unlocking The Uninvited’ (19:00) is a reasonably informative behind the scenes featurette, that fully recognizes the fact that the film is a remake (even if the producers picked it up based on the way the plot was described, not on the actual movie). The behind the scenes of the featurette is interesting, but kind of sad from the standpoint that nobody wanted to inspire the same degree of wonderful ambiguity found in the original film. There’s a lot of talk about the Freudian undertones of the story, which makes the final product that much more disappointing in its simplicity. The featurette also covers casting and filming, which are more in-keeping with the usual self-congratulatory themes of most EPKs.

The extras are completed with four deleted scenes and a brief alternate ending. The alternate ending just elongates the coda by a hair to more specifically explain one element of the twist that is pretty clear in the shortened version, while the deleted scenes are mostly made up of unnecessary clues to the twist.

Uninvited, The

Overall


The Uninvited is pretty unremarkable, and doesn’t hold a candle to its source feature, A Tale of Two Sisters. The story has some big differences, and the twist is somewhat doubled, but things are still pretty predictable, and the beautiful ambiguity and re-watchability of the original film is lost in the simplified and specified rewriting. Audiences searching for fairy tale horror should really just be willing to challenge themselves and go out and rent the original instead. Maybe if there’s enough interest Palisades (which now owns Tartan’s back catalogue) will put out a Blu-ray version of A Tale of Two Sisters.

* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.


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