Sometimes I wonder if Hollywood is even trying anymore, especially when the glut of horror films comes out right around Valentine’s Day. Are audiences not tired of a scantily clad heroine who squeals her way through supernatural dreams and can’t get people to believe her until its too late? Do moviegoers still get startled by gimmicky moments when creepy things jump out at them? Has the story of the evil stepmother not been told a million different times since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?
Apparently people still go see these movies, because The Uninvited is like a homeless man’s What Lies Beneath, which is just a poor man’s The People Beneath the Stairs. The film starts with Anna (Emily Browning) returning home from an insane asylum following the tragic death of her mother. After reuniting with her sister (Arielle Kebbel), the duo bands together against their father’s girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) who they suspect of having devious plans. The first hour of the movie follows a simple formula: Anna feels hope, then her potential stepmother is a bitch, then she hears a bell followed by some creepy ghosts that reveal a tiny plot snippet. By the fifth time this cycle repeats, you practically hear the bell ring before our heroine does.
There is no room for interpretation here, the story knows exactly what it wants you to believe and insists you know nothing more than it is willing to share. Leaving the theater you will know EXACTLY what you just witnessed, there aren’t many nuances to debate with friends. Characters talk vaguely about topics that obviously aren’t so vague, only to get cut-off by convenient distractions and later die before being able to divulge their secrets.
The build up to the plot twist is so painful because the film spends so much time driving home who the bad guy is that the audience knows there’s either no way she’s really the killer, or it’s the most unimaginative script ever. While it might still be the most unimaginative script of all time, I was pleasantly surprised when the twist was revealed. It’s like suffering through a horribly cooked meal so you can eat the delicious desert — only by the time you get to the desert you’re so full of crap you’ve lost your appetite.
Browning turned in a solid performance despite the role requiring a short range of emotions from ‘scared’ to ‘terrified’ with bouts of heavy panting thrown in. Her eyes were intoxicatingly innocent, and after her turn in Lemony Snickets, she could be this generation’s Helena Bonham Carter. Kebbel was forgettable as the classic ditzy horror movie girl and Banks should stick to tub scenes from The 40 Year Old Virgin. The films was directed by the mysterious “Guard brothers” who don’t have much a resume, and I doubt we’ll be seeing much else from them.
I’d like to hope that these films are a thing of the past, but just as I wrapped up writing this review a gchat window popped up:
“WhitD: So Caroline talked me into going to see that movie The Uninvited with her even though you said it wasn’t that good.”
Ugh. Only you can prevent terrible horror films.