Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Uninvited

The Uninvited takes place at the gorgeous seaside residence of a Maine writer. I was thinking Stephen King as soon as I saw the setting. Yet, The Uninvited does not have it's origins in any of King's many books. The Maine location was simply the locale selected for this remake of the 2003 Korean film Janghwa, Hangryeon. The stunning location sets an excellent backdrop for a psychological thriller.

Anna (Emily Browning) returns to her ocean side home after a ten month sting in a mental hospital. Anna has been working through the loss of her mother (Maya Massar) who died in a fire. Anna's wrists still show the scars revealing her downward spiral following her mother's death. Anna's father Steven (David Strathairn) picks her up from the hospital. On the trip home, Steven presents Anna with his latest book, dedicated to Anna and her sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel). We also find that Rachael (Elizabeth Banks) has moved into the house while Anna has been away.

Rachael was the nurse who cared for Anna's mother who was very ill before she dies in a fire in the boathouse. Rachael and Stephen have gotten very close, and we learn that they intend to get married. A concept that Anna obviously doesn't embrace. Anna was dreaming heavily during the time she was in the hospital, but the events that transpired the night her mother was killed seem to escape her memory. Upon her return to the house, strange things begin to happen. Anna begins seeing things that can't be there. It is a downward spiral that seems destined to be a problem.

The Uninvited sort of grows on you. The film begins strong and then gets a bit choppy. The boisterous soundtrack near the beginning of the film is more of a distraction than it's intended purpose to build suspense. The music seemed to make the scenes feel contrived. The interactions between the characters are sometimes predictable, but the overall plot had a major twist that I was not expecting. The thought had crossed my mind, but the diversionary tactics written into the script did a good job of steering my attention in the wrong direction. When the twist happened, I realized I had been fooled. In retrospect, there were obvious signs...which I won't reveal since the plot twist was the best part of the story.

Following the plot twist, we are given scenes that have been recreated in order to solidify the twist. These scenes were a bit condescending. I got it. When the plot twist happened, I recognized it for what it was worth. The ensuing scenes were a bit insulting, as if the writers wanted to make sure you understood the twist. The plot twist wasn't the end of the film, either. There was one last detail to clear up, which made sense when it was addressed. It was sort of an amusing journey that ended where it began. Although it took a circuitous route, I enjoyed the trip. The writers (Craig Rosenbeg, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard) did an excellent job of holding the storyline together without compromising the twist. Directors Charles and Thomas Guard managed the script well, keeping the interactions between the characters believable, while creating a gap that should have been noticeable, but never crossed any lines. That required careful choreography...which was done exceptionally well to maintain the illusion. Although the film felt hackneyed and predictable at times, the overall story was not.

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