Directed by Charles and Thomas Guard
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 87 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 19.99
Release Date: April 28, 2009
Review Date: April 20, 2009
Derivative of just about every horror thriller of the past thirty years, the Guard Brothers’ The Uninvited is an appallingly lackluster affair. Using obvious scare tactics that quickly wear our their welcome and pulling an eleventh hour revelation out of a hat that’s been over-worn in recent years, The Uninvited only screams one thing through its entire 87-minute running time: its complete and utter mediocrity.
Psychologically rattled by the death of her invalid mother in an unexplained fire, teenaged Anna (Emily Browning) spends some time in a mental institution attempting to regain her composure and equilibrium. Once released, she finds that her father (David Strathairn) is involved seriously with the woman who had functioned as her mother’s nurse, Rachel Sanders (Elizabeth Banks). With supportive older sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) by her side, Anna begins her own investigation into her mother’s death piecing together a scenario that suggests it was Rachel who planned the entire murder in order to assume the life she had only been tasting in droplets as the family’s live-in health care provider.
The motley script by Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro, and Carlo Bernard is based on the original Korean suspense film A Tale of Two Sisters. Despite some rewriting to clean up some unexplained transitions and to add some surprises of their own, the script is still reminiscent of many previous horror books and films, most notably Tom Tryon’s The Other. Lacking freshness in their story, the writers have also inserted an annoying series of shock moments where the mentally fragile Anna comes upon something seemingly mundane that suddenly bursts into surprising, scary life. Five times this happens, all directed in the same dreaded slow fashion by the Guard Brothers (as they’re billed; they need to work on pacing as the film with even a short running time drags terribly and seems longer than it is) and cued to Christopher Young’s ominously rumbling score, quickly becoming comical by its very predictability and lack of subtlety. In fact, nothing in the film is done with a soft touch: the shock effects, the whispered secrets, the flashbacks all are hammered home with the finesse of a battering ram.
The performers seem to be flailing about, too, in search of some truth to the characters they’re playing. Elizabeth Banks as the potentially lethal caregiver is a bit reminiscent of Karen Black in Burnt Offerings with her wild swings from softness and agreeability to unguarded mayhem. Emily Browning has a fine line to trod in not giving the film’s game away, but she’s not always entirely successful at it though she gives it a good try. David Strathairn gets few opportunities to offer us more than a stereotypical supportive father at the end of his rope. Jesse Moss as Anna’s former boy friend offers hints at a fine actor saddled with a poorly written part.
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. The transfer of such a recent theatrical release is spotless and shows off a pleasing color scheme with very accurate and appealing flesh tones. Sharpness is generally quite excellent, and blacks can be very deep though shadow detail varies from impressive to mediocre. The film has been divided into 15 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track makes moderately good use of the surrounds for the thunderstorms and wind that occasionally intrude to set the film’s mood of foreboding. The subwoofer gets some use, too, as low-pitched rumbles are meant to instill fear in the viewer. The music often wraps around the soundfield well though it’s not quite as expansive as one would expect given the gorgeous British Columbia lakeside locations it's supposed to mirror and enhance.
“Unlocking The Uninvited” is a reasonably well done EPK behind-the-scenes documentary featuring the directors, the producers, the stars, the writers, and the production designer discussing their experiences making the film. It’s a 19-minute featurette presented in anamorphic widescreen.
The disc offers four deleted scenes which can be played individually or in one 5 ¾-minute clump.
A slightly alternate ending for the film, not remotely as effective as the one currently in place, is available for viewing. It runs 1 minute in anamorphic widescreen.
The disc offers previews of the upcoming Star Trek, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and Van Wilder: Freshman Year. The trailer for The Uninvited is not provided.
A pedestrian thriller with shock scenes too telegraphed for maximum effect and a climactic twist that’s all too familiar to those who have been watching horror films for the last few years, The Uninvited isn’t so much a bad film as it is a completely flat and ultimately unnecessary one.