Halloween Endurance Test: the Uninvited (2009)

Charles and Thomas Guard’s the Uninvited starts off on a good foot. Its title sequence is nothing but wisps of flame floating in the air. Transitioning to a shot of a campfire; one with the darkest blacks I’ve seen in awhile. Granted, watching the cartoony Leprechaun series probably has something to with my newfound love for Daniel Landin’s cinematography, but that doesn’t change the fact that lights are unbelievably light here, and the darks are actually dense and black.

The story centers around the two Rydell sisters: Anna (Emily Browning) and Alex (Arielle Kebbel); whose mother died in a mystery boathouse fire that no one remembers. Anna is the innocent one who goes off to therapy. Alex is the cynic, who believes their mother’s ex-nurse, and father’s current girlfriend, was up to devilry before the mother died.

While the girls are sneaking around town, trying to figure out the real story, we’re left trying to figure out why these girls don’t have cell phones. Seriously. They’re driving around town in a BMW convertible, Alex is sneaking out at night drinking and cavorting, yet neither sister has a cell phone?

Maybe I’m just too cynical, but with all the signs pointing to Rachel Summers (Elizabeth Banks), the girlfriend, I’m inclined to believe Anna’s behind the murders. She is, after all, the one with the established history of mental history. She also has the slash marks across the wrists; not to mention the fact she’s constantly “seeing” dead people.

I don’t know why Asian horror movies are fixated on ghosts (the Uninvited is originally Korean, the Ring was Japanese). But every one of these modern retreads of Asian movies always involves children ghosts who dress as if they’re Puritans. It’s a dead giveaway for revealing the country/culture of origin.

I assume these Puritanical children have some kind of symbolic meaning in Asia that’s lost on us here in the States. Sort of like the reindeer attack in the Ring 2 which, according to the commentary, carries significant weight in Japan; where reindeers are viewed as sacred creatures. This significance is somewhat lost when the attacks occur in rural Washington to Naomi Watts.

The ending is also misplayed, with the Guard brothers using the usual “reshoot all the key scenes again” trick. Only this time said scenes contain the correct characters, in case you missed the swerve that wraps up the story.

I’d have preferred instead that key background scenes came to light. Such as Anna’s relationship with Mildred Kemp. Why does Anna keep seeing Mildred’s children? (Besides the obvious reason, of course.) Also significant is the personality shift at the end between the theatrical ending versus the original ending.

In the original ending, the killer is played very dark, and also very independent. Whereas, with the theatrical ending, the killer remains a pawn barely in control of what she’s doing. The writers say on the DVD that they made these changes to bring closure to the original Korean story. Which they do, as I don’t remember any hanging story threads.

I still can’t figure out how the title, the Uninvited, plays into it though. It makes so much more sense as A Tale of Two Sisters.

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