You’ve Got Ghosts
Starring: Emily Browning, Elizabeth Banks
By Tom Bevis
No one loves a good ghost movie better than I do. But so far, 2009 hasn’t been good to horror fans, serving up offerings like The Unborn and My Bloody Valentine (3D or otherwise), so I think most informed viewers are a bit skeptical when walking into The Uninvited. And why not? The trailers only show us a schizophrenic array or concepts and only give us a vague idea of what the movie is actually about.
Well, I’ll tell you what it’s about. There’s a girl (Emily Browning) whose father has begun a relationship with the nurse (Elizabeth Banks) of her recently deceased mother. This girl has an awkward love interest with a guy who cruises around on a boat, she has a seemingly bipolar sister who is constantly clad in shorts and a bikini top, and she has a rather bad case of phantasmic infestation.
Is that it? Well, I won’t tell you. Actually, I can’t, because The Uninvited is a movie with a SURPRISE ENDING. Notice all the capitol letters there? That’s because the ENDING is supposed to catch you off guard. But don’t let this SURPRISE ENDING steer you away from the film. It’s not nearly as far fetched as some of the others we’ve seen, nor is it inexplicably tied into the story by shoestring coincidences. In other words, the more you think about it, the more the SURPRISE ENDING makes sense.
The Uninvited is a remake of Korea’s top grossing horror film, A Tale of Two Sisters (or Janghwa, Hongryeon) masterminded by the same production camp that brought Japan’s Ringu to America and directed by a duo of brothers who specialize in television commercials. Similar to The Ring, The Uninvited has excellent pacing and builds a thick, elaborate mystery without indulging in too many gimmicky ploys and tricks. In fact, not a single element is overused or under-represented in the picture. Every bit of gore is used skillfully and reasonably, all the spooks are kept in minimal reserve, and when they’re used, they used to maximum effect.
Unlike many of the recent “psychological thrillers,” the psychology of the film is surprisingly deep and accurate (or so my psychologist tells me).. The script deals chiefly with the idea of ghosts as memories and vice-versa and drives concept home in deep, sudden pangs. This type of clean psychology is a refreshing alternative to the exhaustively exaggerated and flat-out fabricated psychology we see in many other films in the genre.
The filmmakers employ beautiful cinematography that is both fitting and effective in the horror genre: nothing is done in excess and scenic panoramas never steal the visual emphasis. Instead, each shot is used to carefully build a sense of place and time, with cues from music and lighting to give us an idea of circumstance and urgency. In several camera shots, the forest surrounding the family home is shown in contrast with the ocean behind it, offset only by the house in the center, creating a dreary backdrop for a highly entertaining ghost story.
The acting was nothing out of the ordinary, though you didn’t need me to tell you there’d be any Oscar-winning performances hidden in The Uninvited (Oscar? For a horror movie? Never). Everything, though, is within the realm of believability and can simply be described as passable. The only member of the cast of any particular note is Banks, whose performance comes off too uneven and rushed to be considered good. If you happened to like Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, then you’ll remember Browning and you’ll be able to note that her acting hasn’t improved, she’s just been adjusted into a more complimentary setting.
To answer the question readers often ask critics, I think The Uninvited is well worth its ticket price if you’re an avid follower of ghost stories.. Hell, even if you’re an amateur appreciator of horror films, go catch this picture. If you like a film that will slowly make you think, a plot-twist that isn’t too sudden or blown-up, or if you just want to be generally creeped out, take the time. If you’re the kind of bland movie-goer, however, who likes endings neatly wrapped up for you or take unsuspected shock endings as a slight against your intelligence, then grab a more linear, flat film. Perhaps something as plain and overexposed as The Unborn.