Ji-woon Kim's A Tale of Two Sisters is one of the better horror films of the last 10 years, and upon discovering that Hollywood would be remaking this classic from South Korea, I cringed.
Two Sisters was as dark as things can get, a hard R-rated film not just for violence, but for unrelenting psychological terror. My trepidation increased when I saw that the remake, stupidly titled The Uninvited, was given a dreaded PG-13 rating, which meant it would be a horror film that, more or less, pulls punches.
To their credit, the Guard brothers (co-directing siblings Charles and Thomas) almost pull it off. Their film is relatively useless to those who watched and loved the original, but audiences new to the story might get a few good chills out of it. However, the film's intentions are too obvious in spots, and at a brief 87 minutes, it feels a little rushed and incomplete.
The Rydell family is going through tough times. Daughter Anna (Emily Browning) has done a stint at a mental hospital after the death of her sick mother in a house fire. Her dad (David Strathairn) wasted no time moving on to other carnal business, bedding his wife's mysterious nurse, Rachael (Elizabeth Banks). Anna's older sister, Alex (Arielle Kebbel), is resentful that Anna's stay at the hospital essentially left her alone at home to listen to her dad and the new girl having sex three times a night.
Immediately upon returning home, Anna is haunted by strange visions: ghostly children underneath the stove, teenage boys with horrifically broken backs, and the ghost of her gnarled-up mother screaming, "Murder!" It seems that the events leading to her mother's death are not as they seem.
Was the fire an accident? Did the nurse and Daddy conspire to end the life of the sick mother so that they could live in peace and have sex a lot? It sure seems that way to Anna, who teams with her sister to find out just what transpired. Rachael's odd, controlling and sometimes psycho behavior doesn't help her case.
The original film contained a big twist, and The Uninvited is faithful to it. However, Banks, a decent actress, seems to be overacting (or just acting badly) at times. Some of what she's doing winds up making sense by the film's end. Still, just because it makes sense doesn't mean it's worth watching.
Browning (who was in Lemony Snicket) has a nice face for horror flicks. It's expressive, with just the right touch of melancholy. She has a tough part, and she does well with it for most of the running time. Kebbel is OK as the mischievous older sister, who sneaks out for beer parties and gives her dad headaches. The always-reliable Strathairn does a good job of presenting us with a man we should hate, although he somehow garners sympathy.
The film is harmed by the Guard brothers constantly telegraphing their scary "jolt" moments. Things get silent, and a character walks around looking disoriented--so you know something is about to happen. The pattern repeats itself to the point where nothing is all that surprising.
The Uninvited doesn't slander the masterpiece that is The Tale of Two Sisters; it's just not nearly as good. Due to the soft-pitch horror approach and the co-directors' occasionally obvious style, The Uninvited doesn't fully succeed as a standalone piece. The Guard brothers get decent performances out of their cast, and they can certainly make a good-looking movie. If you haven't seen the original, you might find this worthy--but fans of the original should probably stay away.