Directed by Thomas Guard, Charles Guard. Starring Emily Browning, Arielle Kebbel, Elizabeth Banks, David Strathairn, Maya Massar, Kevin McNulty. (2009, PG-13, 87 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Feb. 6, 2009
Somewhere in this country, amid the mounting dread and the fear of what societal breakdown might happen next, are a screenwriter and a filmmaker who have yet to meet. Once they finally find each other, it is my fondest hope that they will be able to tap into and poetically encapsulate our current national night sweats and reflect them back upon us, just as Asian writers such as Koji Suzuki (Spiral) and filmmakers such as Takashi Shimizu (Ju-On), Hideo Nakata (Ringu), and Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Kairo aka Pulse) have done for their respective nations in the recent past. But, as I noted, our Yank equivalent of Asia's technophobic, Nikkei-battered, cinema-of-perpetual-unease has yet to arrive. All Hollywood has been able to manage is generally uninspired – if zeitgeist-prescient – versions of nearly every notable Asian horror film since the millennium that wasn't directed by Takashi Miike. The trend continues with The Uninvited, a generically creepy remake of South Korean director Kim Jee-woon's lush and unnerving masterpiece A Tale of Two Sisters. UK siblings the Guard Brothers (working from a script by Lost alumnus Craig Rosenberg and Doug Miro) have got the eye, although it's not quite that of the Pang Brothers. And, to be fair, The Uninvited benefits from some outré cinematography courtesy of director of photography Dan Landin, who gets a real frisson out of the Vancouver-for-New England locations. Browning is Anna, fresh out of the asylum after the death of her mother in a "mysterious" fire sent her over the edge some years back. Welcoming her home is sister Alex (Kebbel) and rightfully concerned Dad (Strathairn), plus Dad's uninvited new squeeze in the form of Banks, who manages an even creepier turn here than her recent Laura Bush while being completely off Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri porno playing field. (That's some serious range.) Dullish malign visions, unsurprising spectral messages, and a third-act revelation that's telegraphed much too far in advance, however, conspire to undo The Uninvited despite the Guards' best efforts. And, once spoiled by the gossamer disquietude of Kim Jee-woon's original Tale, it's difficult to view this Americanized version in anything but the blandest light.