Uninvited (2009)
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Uninvited (2009)

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When I first encountered the 2009 film, ‘The Uninvited’ I thought it was a remake of the 1944 film of the same name. Now that classic movie featuring Ray Milland was one of my all time favorites. It is one of the best examples of a good old fashion ghost story ever presented on film. Then I discovered that the new version is somewhat a mixture between that movie and the 2003 Korean horror movie ‘A Tale of the Two Sisters’. Admittedly, I’ve never seen the Korean movie but typically they are adherents to the Asian horror precepts favoring a greater emphasis on the psychological slant to frightening the audience. American horror filmmakers tend to focus of the visually deployed visceral horror utilizing a lot of special effects makeup. With this in mind I went into this latest incarnation of ‘The Uninvited’ with optimism, hoping for a different slant on some classic themes of terror. Unfortunately, the results of attempting to meld the styles of several films in the genre are a mélange of tropes and archetypes that prevents the original intent of both the source movies from being fully realized. While there is some significant degree of interesting plot points present in this offering but overall the feeling left by the time the credits roll up is rather that something was just shy of where it could have been. Perhaps there were just too many fruitful paths to follow so it might have been difficult for the filmmakers to narrow down appropriate plot threads to follow. Even with that working against this movie there were some well established horror elements that always seem to help out a story. This movie suffers from comparison to other similar movies. It the movie had been released under a different title severing its connection with the other films perceptions would have been much different. In fact, under such conditions the rankings would be different. Considered under this light the movie works fairly well. It also helps that the story offers an ideal platform to showcase the talents of some excellent actors. All things considered, yes the film could have been better but it manages to stand well on its own.

One aspect of that this film shares with its processors is its reliance of the psychological elements of a horror flick. This may be a freshman feature film effort for the Guard Brothers, Charles and Thomas but they certainly have talent for telling a ghost story. It is certain that they will develop stylistically over time and the negative comments above were solely a result of the need for honing their technique. Directorial style takes time to mature and solidify. What the Guard Brothers have is an intrinsic sense of how to tell this kind of a story. Some Master of horror hopefuls spends their entire careers searching for this spark never quite capturing it. The Brothers come to this, there first feature length film with an intrinsic understanding of what makes a ghost story spooky. It took me a couple of viewings before I could fully appreciate this due in large part to the halo effect I attribute to the 1944 movie. Once I could separate those expectations and approach this film properly on its own merits I found I really enjoyed myself. Okay, I’m human and do come to some movies with baggage.

The Gauge Brothers return to old school basic with the foundation of the plot; a recent release from a mental institution. So many camp fire scary stories depended on the twisted behavior and dark, mysterious atmosphere than the old fashion asylum. Anna (Emily Browning) had been committed to such an institution for several months after a suicide attempt precipitated by the death of her terminally ill mother. Mom did not have an opportunity to succumb to her illness; she died as a result of a fire in their boat house. She has no recollection of those events even after intense treatment for the trauma. Anna is brought back home by her father Steven (David Strathairn) where she has to face her older sister, Alex (Arielle Kebbel). Their close sibling bond is re-sparked by a mutual dislike of their mother’s former nurse; Rachel (Elizabeth Banks).much of the animosity comes from Rachel sleeping with their father while mother was still alive. Suspicions rapidly begin to mount as Anna’s boyfriend Matt (Jesse Moss) informs her he saw something the night her mother died but mysteriously falls to show up for their planed rendezvous. Anna is already on edge because elements of her recurring dreams seem to be intruding on reality. A few supernatural occurrences height the frightening mood as doubts over Rachael’s motivations continue to mount; the State Nursing registry has no record of her. The sisters begin to suspect her to be a Nanny notorious for murdering children in her care.

One aspect that can help a supernatural spooky story is the introduction of some plausible, rational explanations for the events. It is suggested that Anna’s schizophrenia is more to blame for what is going on than any otherworldly etiology. The Brothers play off this seed of reasonable doubt with mastery beyond what is usually seen in a freshman filmmaker team. During my second more liberated viewing I realized where these fraternal filmmakers were coming from. This is a spooky tale reminiscent of the old EC horror comics adults hated us reading. They were well known for red herrings and plot twist that frequently culminated with a darkly twisted ending. This places it in a more substantial level of horror that usually depicted in modern American representative of this genre. The story is woven significantly tighter than the classic film of the forties. That was more like a campfire scary story while this variance is presented on several different levels. Stylistically it is suitably dark but some additional character exposition could have been included. As the sisters Emily Browning and Arielle Kebbel are exceptionally suited for their roles. Browning had that waif like affect that compels you to protect here. In contrast Kebbel projects a more independent demeanor that provides the right character contrast. Banks has done a considerable amount of comedy but this film proves she can hit a suspenseful part out of the part. If anything the screenplay by Craig Rosenberg and Doug Miro could have had a couple of the dominant threads pulled tighter both the basis use of setting and mood is well considered. In a case similar to the director a bit of experience will smooth out the rough edges very nicely.

Posted 04/11/12

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