Anna is haunted by nightmares and apparitions in The Uninvited.
The Uninvited begins with teenager Anna (Emily Browning, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) talking with her psychiatrist in an institution. She’s recovering from the trauma of her mother dying in a horrible fire. She doesn’t remember the event specifically, but she has vague, artful nightmares. Anna is sent home with an OK bill of health. Her father (David Strathairn) picks up her and takes her to their absurdly lush, lakeside, British Columbia home. Anna finds that the woman who nursed her ill mother, Rachel (Elizabeth Banks, Zach and Miri Make a Porno) is in a relationship with her father. Anna doesn’t know how to deal with this, so retreats to her older sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel). Alex is even angrier about the situation, and has some suspicions about Rachel. Rachel seems sincere enough, but she also seems calculating and manipulative. At the same time, Anna is having nightmares. She’s haunted by her burned, snake-like mother. She’s trying to tell her something?
Alex is talking with Anna on the pier.
After the death of a nice boy whom Rachel may or may not have threatened, Anna and Alex begin a junior investigation. Anna is also haunted now by three unearthly ginger children. The sisters come to believe that Rachel is Mildred Kemp, a woman who seduced the husband of a sick woman, murdered the family, including the three ginger children, took some loot and was never seen again! It also seems to everyone like Anna is just being obstinate and causing trouble. Maybe she’s not as cured as she originally seemed? It certainly endears Rachel over Anna. It all comes to a head when Anna tries to tell the cops who Rachel really is, but they side with the soon-to-be-stepmother and drug the teen. Trapped in the house now and drugged, Alex helps Anna escape. In the confusion, Alex kills Rachel. It was kill or be killed. Their father returns home to find her daughter covered in blood. And that’s when the truth about Alex, Rachel and that one night in her dreams is revealed.
Alex is lying on the floor after being drugged.
The Uninvited, a remake of a Japanese film titled A Tale of Two Sisters (1996), is an effective scary thriller, but a very flawed one. First, there are many, many films about evil stepmothers and fathers insinuating themselves into the lives of innocent teens. For the most part, this feels like another one of those films. Next, the film presents two entirely incongruous horror styles: Japanese style ghost-demons, which have no business in a film that’s not really about ghosts, and American-style lakeside suspense. Each has their own tone and urgency, which are so radically different they clash distractingly. Last, the twist ending. It’s actually not a bad twist ending, considering that over the last 10 years, after the success of The Sixth Sense, having a twist ending on your suspense thriller has become sacrosanct. You won’t see the end coming, and it’s effective, but if you think about it too long, it’s clearly one of those twists that depends on this being a movie and that we’re only being shown what we’re supposed to see. All that said, despite its flaws it’s a good film. It’s moody, has good performances, and a satisfying ending. It just feels like another film, an entertaining diversion.
Anna kneels down to help her sister.
Anna looks down at the imprints she and her sister made as children.
Both sisters Anna and Alex wear their chucks throughout the film. In one early scene, a lonely and conflicted Anna sits in front of their house, looking down at the childhood imprints she and her sister made. Wearing her chucks emphasizes that’s she young, thus innocent, but also average and trendy. This could be you (if you’re a fourteen-year-old girl).
The camera focuses on Anna’s chucks, as she grabs the pearls and escapes from Rachel.
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