2009 | Directors: Charles and Thomas Guard | Writers: Like five dudes
I’ve often wondered if using the one jump-in-your-seat tactic that all otherwise-non-frightening horror films use—that being someone SUDDENLY POPPING INTO FRAME WITH A JOLTING SOUND EFFECT!—would work in other media, such as the written word. Well, in honor of The Uninvited, a bland Disturbia-meets-Secret Window exercise fraught with artificial shocks and jumps, I’m about to find out by USING CAPITAL LETTERS AND AN EXCLAMATION POINT!
The Uninvited, AKA Three Nubile Women in Various States of Undress, Plus David Strathairn, stars Emily Browning as Anna, a young lady who, at the film’s beginning, is just being released from a mental institution for trying to kill herself. We learn through an “it was all a dream”-type sequence that the reason for her attempted suicide 10 months prior was her sick mother’s DEATH IN A BOATHOUSE EXPLOSION! She is reunited back home with her father (Strathairn), a writer, and her sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel), a bikini enthusiast, only to find that dear old dad is now engaged to mom’s hospice nurse, played with subtle creepiness BY THE ENCHANTING ELIZABETH BANKS! As in most twisty horror films, things are not as they seem.
Part of the reason The Uninvited is so dull is its lack of endearment for any of its characters. Anna is a quiet, boring, bookish type, while her alcoholic sister is abrasive to the point of tedium—unoriginal archetypes, sure, but more importantly, we’re given no reason to root for either one. So what if the potentially murderous nurse is about to marry daddy? Anna and Alex’s mother is dead and gone, so what’s at stake? Worse yet is the treatment given the woefully underutilized Strathairn, whose father character spends most of the film staring off into the distance and RESTING HIS CHIN ON HIS FIST WHILE HE WATCHES TV! Only Banks is given any room to work, and though she seems to be having fun, her character’s questionable motives only work to show how utterly uninteresting the film’s protagonists really are. BLAAUGH!
It’s not all the writer’s fault. At its core The Uninvited is nothing more than a gimmick wrapped up in commonplace horror film artifices meant to MAKE YOU THINK YOU’RE SCARED! It’s difficult to completely dislike the film with all the eye candy splaying itself across sun-drenched locales, but it definitely leaves the YAAAAAH! HAH! REEEEAAAARGH!
There. Experiment complete. If you found yourself frightened by this article and its groundbreaking use of horror movie convention, you’ll most likely be scared stupid by The Uninvited, as well as by leaving the house, shopping for pants, or turning on the garbage disposal. Good luck with your life.
Rating: One and a Half of Five Stars