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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF Blu-ray Review: The Uninvited.

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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist


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Posted April 22 2009 - 10:52 AM

The Uninvited (Blu-ray)

Studio: DreamWorks
Rated: PG-13 (For violent and disturbing images, thematic material, sexual content, language and teen drinking)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+
Time: 87 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL BD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2009
Blu-Ray Release Date: April 28, 2009

Can American writers, directors and producers make a decent, home grown horror film anymore? Can they come up with something as smart and creepy as A Tale of Two Sisters, the Korean source of this picture, The Uninvited? Is there another Friday the 13th or Halloween or even a Scream gestating in the mind of an American filmmaker so we can just leave the Korean, Japanese and Chinese stories alone and instead refer viewers to them? Apparently not, as The Uninvited becomes another in a string of American adaptations of Far East source material (see alsoThe Ring and The Departed, or better yet, see the far superior originals).

Young Anna (Emily Browning) is being released from a mental institution after having been treated after the death of her mother. Anna did not cope very well with her sick mother’s tragic death which came in the form of an accidental gas explosion. Anna’s author father, Steven (a wasted David Strathairn) brings her home to find he has moved in her mother’s former nurse, Rachael (Elizabeth Banks) and set up a new relationship with her. Anna is eager to see her sister, Alex (Arielle Kebbel), so the two can kvetch about the new mom-wannabe. They share a similar dislike and distrust of Rachael, and they begin to believe, based on Rachael’s actions and attitudes, that Rachael is not who she says she is and may be out to kill the girls to get Steven to herself. Anna is also suffering from dreams and visions of her dead mother and some creepy kids who are trying to tell her the truth about her mother’s death. Anna will have to do some heavy psychological and physical lifting if she and her twisted sister are ever going to get to the bottom of the horrific mystery of mom’s death.

It took two brothers, Charles and Thomas Guard, to direct The Uninvited, and I question how many more people they could have used to make this a better picture. It delivers on some good psychological horror, and screenwriters Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard should be commended for that. Unfortunately, the Guard Brothers (as they like to be credited) seem to be a little more concerned with style over substance as many of the what-should-be-jump out-of-your-seat thrills are so obvious and predictable that you could almost time the beats in the picture until the next one. Once they do show, the music and camerawork clues you in to forthcoming frights. As I said earlier, the horror genre is rich for mining, but apparently all the prospectors are coming from outside of the states (see also Let the Right One In, the very fine Swedish vampire movie). Maybe also the original pictures work better for us here since the settings and many of the cultural aspects of Korea, in this case, figure in to the creepiness of their movies simply due to their foreign-ness. Or are we as American film goers now so conditioned to the hack-and-slash genre that more traditional horror pictures are getting lost in the mix, with our filmmakers thinking we need buckets of blood over true horror? The Uninvited makes the attempt to bring us back to our roots, but just gets lost in translation along the way.

Movie: **/*****

Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

The Blu-Ray disc is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Given the recent vintage of this release, we are given a nice video transfer that is crisp and clean, lacking any noticeable dirt, noise, or other negative artifacts. Detail and sharpness are inconsistent, looking excellent at time, but other times looking soft and mushy. The color palate is slightly de-saturated allowing some colors to pop while others blend into one another. Flesh tones are smooth and accurate and you can see some nice detail in each of the actors faces. Black levels are quite good showing a nice amount of detail and depth.

Video: ***/*****

The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.

I watched the feature with the Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 track engaged. I was expecting a much more rich and immersive audio experience, but the sound design kept the soundstage primarily in the fronts and occasionally bleeding out to the rears. When the surround channels came up it was to provide environmental ambience. Panning effects were minimal but effective when used. LFE’s were very subtle and added to the moodiness of some of the more tense scenes. The soundtrack was free from any distortion, and the actor’s voices sounded smooth and natural.

Audio: ***/*****

Bonus Material: all items are in SD.

Unlocking The Uninvited (19:00): a usual EPK that interviews the cast and crew as they talk about the movie and the shoot. Once I saw and heard Emily Browning here I became a bit more impressed with her performance as she seems far more mature than the age she portrays in the movie itself.

Deleted Scenes (5:00): four deleted scenes that add little to the overall movie.

Alternate Ending (:50): a bit of a head scratcher for me: very similar to the one they used.

Bonus Material: */*****

I guess I need to lay down a challenge to American filmmakers: please come up with a decent horror film that isn’t based on somebody else’s superior and original idea. The Uninvited is certainly nothing to exceptional and I’d almost refer you to the original movie on which it is based; it’s available here in several SDDVD editions, a Blu-ray, and probably numerous editions in other regions. The AV quality of the picture is satisfactory but not much beyond that, and the supplements don’t help the overall release.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

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