May 6, 2009

Blu-ray Review: The Uninvited

Horror films that make their bow on the big screen during the first few calendar months of each year do not tend to be all that good. Just take a look at such recent early year offerings such as One Missed Call, Primevil, Blood & Chocolate, and When a Stranger Calls, not to mention this year's The Unborn (which had a few nice visuals). It does not take a bit leap to think that The Uninvited would be another of the lame mass produced horror films that litter the screens each year. I was completely prepared to skip it myself, that is before I started to see some positive buzz around it. So, I relented and saw it. Guess what? It was actually pretty good. Not great, mind you, but better than I expected for a film with such modest aspirations. Here comes the test, will it successfully translate to the small screen? The answer there also happens to be yes.

The film centers on Anna (Emily Browning), a young girl who lost her sick mother in a tragic fire. It was supposed to have been an accident, but Anna is convinced that there is something else, something more sinister at work. What makes it more troubling is the fact that she has blocked out most of the events of that fateful night.

We begin with a dream sequence where she pieces together some of the events of the night in a dream sequence with a psychiatrist (who looks suspiciously like a lumberjack). Since the incident Anna has been kept in a mental hospital as she tries to get over the intense trauma of her loss. She has gotten to the stage where it is believed she is ready to go home and resume her life.

She is picked up by her author father (David Strathairn) and together they head home. Unfortunately the trip home also brings her face to face with Rachel (Elizabeth Banks), Anna's former nurse and now her father's live-in girlfriend. Anna is convinced that Rachel is behind the death of her mother and fears for her life and for her father. She teams with her older sister, Alex (Arielle Kebbel), to find the proof needed to stop Rachel and save her family.

Everything builds to a climax that I sort of see coming, but still manages to surprise, it pulls the rug out from under you, making you question all that has come before. The Uninvited brings together elements of other films into something that blends the fresh with the familiar, resulting in an effectively creepy blend. The Guard Brothers directed the film and display a good sense for pacing and an ability top build a suspenseful atmosphere without overusing elements like the jump scare or shrieky musical cues.

The cast is quite good all around. Emily Browning has a very unique look and she is able to carry a lot of emotion. Likewise, Elizabeth Banks shows how she is one of the hardest working actresses in the business and can deftly move from comedy to drama, here she plays a woman who seemingly means well, but has a distinct touch of menace, walking a fine line. David Straithairn and Arielle Kebbel are also fine in their supporting roles.

Audio/Video. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and looks wonderful. It is not the most colorful of films, but its palette is accurately represented here and the high definition image offered a great deal of depth. Audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround, which sounds wonderful. There is nice use of surrounds with a crisp score and clear dialogue. Nothing to complain about at all.

Extras. This Paramount release comes complete with a limited selection of extras.
  • Unlocking the Uninvited. This is a rather light featurette that goes into the adaptation from the original Korean film (A Tale of Two Sisters) as well as some of the production itself.
  • Deleted Scenes. This is a series of scenes that a slightly different takes on what is in the film. None of them would have added all that much to the film, but still interesting to see.
  • Alternate Ending. This is not terribly different from the actual ending, it is just a different interaction with a patient at the mental hospital.

Bottomline. Surprisingly effective horror film that will draw you in. Even if you see where it is going, you will not likely accurately predict the finish. The performances are above average, and you will be affected. So, put your preconceptions aside and give it a shot, you may be surprised by what you find.



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