5.5

The Uninvited

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The Uninvited

Speed RacerRelease Date: Jan. 30Director: The Guard BrothersWriter: Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard; Ji-woon Kim (original)Cinematographer: Dan LandinStarring:Arielle Kebbel, David Strathairn, Elizabeth Banks Studio/Run Time: DreamWorks SKG, 87 mins.
Anna suffered a nervous breakdown after her mother's tragic death, and she returns home from the mental hospital to find not only her father and sister but also her father's new girlfriend. A bit too perky, a bit too present in this situation, the girlfriend was mom's nurse before the accident, but Anna and her sister Alex think she may have had something to do with the deadly explosion.Speed RacerTheir mom had been sick for a while, so the family moved her into the boathouse, because who wants a sick person lying around your seaside mansion when an underutilized boathouse is available right next door? They hung a bell around mom's wrist so she could jingle for assistance when necessary, but they overlooked the problem of the huge tank of gasoline at her bedside. One night it blew up. Hence the nightmares. They're creepy, but since this is a PG-13 film, they aren't too intense, and they're certainly not as weird as the dreams in the Korean horror film on which The Uninvited is very loosely based, A Tale of Two Sisters. They include no synchronized menstruation, for example.
But the dreams are an ongoing reminder of what happened, and Anna and Alex are determined to get to the bottom of it. A boy who lives in town says he saw the whole thing, but every time he starts to tell his story he gets interrupted. Or he falls down, gets dirty, and needs to take his shirt off. Anna tries to tell her father about the suspicious things his girlfriend has said and done (like tightening pearls around Anna's neck or saying things that could only be explained by Scooby-Doo logic), but he won't listen. Every road is blocked! Finally, the sheriff pays attention. He tells Anna to stay in his office while he goes investigating, and he politely turns off the light on his way out the door, leaving a young woman who's been tortured by nightmares and chased by a murderer no choice but to curl up on the couch and await her moonlit close-up.
The Uninvited is concise and well-acted, but it seems to aspire to something scarier and more mind-blowing. The original is no masterpiece, but director Kim Ji-woon used the confusing plot as an excuse for stylish, elongated suspense. In their middling remake, the filmmakers have greatly simplified the story and created a few likable characters (notably the father played by David Strathairn) instead of getting by on chilly confusion, but they've hung very little else on that lean spine. A handful of briefly scary scenes. A contorted body straight out of the Ringu cycle. An unintentionally humorous flashback. A bikini for the sister. A cute boy for the town. A tragic explosion for the mom. They all work to round out the psychotic mystery or enhance the film's trailer, but they don't make the movie any more thrilling. The Uninvited is an occasionally spooky, often silly, made-you-jump suspense film with a conclusion that's not quite whack enough to satisfy.

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