Horror review: The Uninvited

TheUninvited

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, JAN. 30, 2009

2009 isn’t shaping up as a banner year for Hollywood horrors. So far, Tinseltown has offered up a 3-D remake of a mediocre ’80s slasher flick (My Bloody Valentine) and a schlocky supernatural flop (The Unborn). Things don’t improve much with the Bowen Island-shot The Uninvited, an unwieldy, paint-by-numbers redo of the 2003 South Korean hit A Tale of Two Sisters.

Emily Browning stars as pouty-lipped teen Anna, who returns to her family’s seaside mansion after 10 months in a psych ward, where she was held after attempting suicide in the wake of her ailing mother’s fiery death.

Back at home, she rejoins her novelist dad, Steven (wasted Oscar nominee David Strathairn), and his foxy live-in girlfriend, Rachael (Elizabeth Banks), who used to care for the deceased mother and now supplies grief counselling in the form of three noisy humps a day. Anna’s rebellious sister, Alex (The Grudge 2’s Arielle Kebbel), despises Rachael and suspects her of killing their mom, an idea reinforced by Anna’s numerous nightmare visions.

While this domestic drama unfolds, first-time feature directors Charles and Thomas Guard arrive with a semitrailer’s worth of horror clichés and unload shots of stone-faced children, crawling, burnt corpses, keyholes dripping blood, and heads rotating Exorcist-style.

But the only genuinely startling moments come via the deafening sound effects that accompany a large roast hitting the floor and Anna scraping metal hangers along a clothing rack.

In a last-ditch effort to shock, the film’s suspect trio of screenwriters inject a M. Night Shyamalan–style plot twist. But by then the numbing lack of atmosphere and imagination has rendered such craftiness futile.

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