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The Uninvited

Like turning fresh cod into fishsticks, the Hollywood machine has processed the 2003 South Korean horror film A Tale Of Two Sisters into The Uninvited, essentially remaking it as The Sixth Sense. Gone is the original film's ambiguous, psychosexual bent; it's replaced by unsettled ghosts dropping by to parse out information in the spookiest way possible. As with most PG-13-rated horror, it's a slick, bloodless affair that's neither as suggestive as the classic general-audiences ghost stories of the past, nor as intense as a hard-R would allow it to be. The result is a middling Frankenstein-like hybrid of spectral mayhem and murder mystery, constructed entirely out of borrowed parts.


The only thing keeping The Uninvited from being completely forgettable is the clever casting of Elizabeth Banks as a gold-digging evil-stepmother type looking to drive a wedge between her man and his children. In the past, Banks has been limited almost entirely to comedic roles, so it's a pleasant surprise to see her hint at the vast depths of psychosis behind her luminous smile. As the film opens, Banks has transitioned from nursing the ailing wife of author David Strathairn to settling down with him after the wife dies in a fire. The two, along with Strathairn's eldest daughter, Arielle Kebbel, welcome back his youngest daughter Emily Browning, who was sent away to an institution after attempting suicide in the wake of her mother's death. Upon her return, Browning and Kebbel try to get to the bottom of what really happened to their mother, but the ghosts in the house complicate their sleuthing.

The dynamic between the sisters and their would-be stepmother packs enough tension on its own that the lurching, fork-spined J-horror (or K-horror, in this case) beasties could probably be excised to the film's benefit. As it is, all The Uninvited's action services one of those big twists that retroactively explains a lot of peculiar behavior, while rendering a host of other scenes nonsensical. And for those who guess it early, getting there seems to take that much longer.

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