THE UNINVITED is a strange animal in my collection. I saw the South Korean movie it was based on, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, a few years before it, and I wish I hadn’t. Knowing the twist affects how you view a movie that depends on its twists. I had to watch UNINVITED again with my horror friend to determine whether the twist was sufficiently twisty. He didn’t predict the ending, by the way, which means he really wouldn’t have figured out the twist to TWO SISTERS, because TWO SISTERS is more twisted, which is why I wish I had seen it afterward. Because as a result, THE UNINVITED suffers a bit from comparison.
On the other hand, while I have a handful of Japanese and South Korean horror that I like, I’m afraid most of it leaves me rather cold. While culture shock plays a role, I think the primary reason is that they follow a different kind of storytelling and film making. To this American viewer, it feels disjointed and difficult to follow timelines. Angles and framing are different. Editing doesn’t feel like it has enough segue. The horror stories feel more dreamlike, impressional rather than literal. This isn’t a bad thing, but I don’t respond to it as well as I do American/European structures and standards, which feel less jarring in a hundred little ways. This is why I don’t mind when Hollywood remakes Asian films. When they’re bad, they’re still bad, but I tend to respond better to the method. Hard to apologize for that.
TWO SISTERS was twisted as hell, and it was R-rated for a good reason, while UNINVITED stays a pretty tame PG-13, but TWO SISTERS also had that trippy quality that’s sometimes hard for me to follow, so while I liked the movie, it’s not one that inspired repeated viewing, while I’ve watched UNINVITED multiple times over.
Here’s the thing: THE UNINVITED is perfectly serviceable horror. Do I wish it had gone a little farther and hit the R rating? Yeah, I kind of do. Because I think Emily Browning, Elizabeth Banks, and Arielle Kebbel would have had a field day going all the way with it, and the cast could have killed it, particularly Browning and Banks, on whose performances the movie really rests. I’m big fans of both of them. I think Elizabeth Banks, in particular, tends to get overlooked because she’s so reliable of an actress that she doesn’t stand out. She’s a total ensemble player, and I appreciate her work in everything she’s in because of it.
Emily Browning brought her usual china-doll delicate strength to the screen. Not going to lie, she’s almost painfully pretty, but she brings a lot of soul into her face – like Angelina Jolie with more innocence – and without it, I might not respect her as much as an actress. But even at eighteen, which was her age during filming, she’s a rock-solid, grounded performer. If the movie itself is a little weak, a good cast made it stronger than it had any right to be, because by the nature of the twist, they had to play the movie multiple ways at once – just like any good mystery, multiple possibilities need to be plausible until the ending is inevitable. That’s not an easy game to play, but they all manage to accomplish it.
Moreover, while some of the scares were lifted directly from TWO SISTERS, there were a handful that were legitimately creepy in spite of the rating, and gems like that are valuable in any horror movie. So much goes into a good scare that doesn’t depend on surprise or screeching violins, and even though they only last a little while, if it gets my heart racing, I gotta give them credit.
It’s a solid, respectable movie, good if you’re a fan of the PG-13 Asian horror remakes but also decent even if you aren’t. The psychological thriller/paranoia aspects make up for some of the weaknesses in the horror, and the legitimate scares make up for a somewhat weaker thriller ending than I would have liked. Even if the story gets slightly tired in places, the performances are so emotionally nuanced that you don’t mind. It doesn’t reach the quality of THE RING or even THE GRUDGE, which makes sense, because THE UNINVITED was made to try to profit off their trend, and the staleness shows. But the actors aren’t acting like it’s stale, and if you haven’t seen TWO SISTERS, UNINVITED might be a decent popcorn flick for some Saturday evening alone, and might even make better viewing the second time through. You might also follow it up with TWO SISTERS later – don’t worry, there are more than enough twists to go around.