Movie Review – The Uninvited [A Tale of Two Sisters remake] (2009)

I was thoroughly impressed with Kim Ji-woon’s 2003 horror film, A Tale of Two Sisters, known in South Korea as Jangwa, Hongryeon. It was an effective psychological thriller that weaved the supernatural and natural in unexpected ways, creating an almost suffocating, dreamlike world. As with most PG-13 American remakes, I expected 2009’s The Uninvited, directed by the British-born Guard Brothers, to butcher the strengths from the original story and delude them with tired Hollywood jump scares and clichés. Despite my low expectations, or perhaps due to them, The Uninvited is actually a well-done horror targeted to teens that is, on most levels, a superior entry when compared to the horror films generally offered to that demographic. It tells of a girl named Anna, played by Emily Browning, who returns home from a mental hospital and tries to hold onto her sanity as she comes up against her new stepmother and a possible haunting.

The script does indeed stray from its source material – the characters are quite different and the plot plays out more like a simplified mystery/thriller, and it does not demand the attention or intelligence that its predecessor did. Certain elements have been added that allow a few more surprises, and the twist plays out in a way different enough to warrant a viewing by fans of Two Sisters. One scene which stands out features a broken back, and the effects and lighting make for an effectively intense scenario.

The real strength in this film, however, lies in the performance of Elizabeth Banks. Admittedly, when she was cast in the stepmother’s role I was skeptical, but her acting goes against type and perfectly treads the fine line between sinister and sincere in a role that demands the delicate balance of ambiguity. Likewise, Emily Browning pulls off the lead role without difficulty and Arielle Kebbel, who plays the other sister, steals several scenes. Pulling the whole film together is a haunting musical score that adds an atmosphere of whimsical sorrow.

With all these strengths going for it, the truth of the matter is that there is not much new here to offer the genre, and it rather succeeds more in not screwing things up. What it excels at, however, is being a stepping stone for teens into the world of horror that genre fans won’t have to cringe at, and in that respect it is most welcome. It is not a great film, but it is an adequate one, and considering its peers, that definitely counts for something.

Grade: C