FEBRUARY 6, 2008
The shortest review in the Horror Movie A Day canon belongs to the original version of The Uninvited (which was named Tale Of Two Sisters). My whole review, if memory serves, was “I have no idea what I just watched, but I liked it.” And it’s true – I had to go back and rewatch a good chunk of the film to ‘get’ it. This was partially due to my standard 10% doze time as well as my increasingly common problem of watching a film in another language and not reading all of the subtitles. I almost wish these things would come dubbed, especially talky films such as these – you can go a minute or so without ever actually LOOKING at the film itself.
Anyway, not following will not be a problem for anyone who watches this version. In addition to being about 20 minutes shorter and being in English, the director and screenwriters felt that it was necessary to spell everything out for the audience, sometimes flashing back to things that happened only a few minutes before. The cast and PG-13 rating leave no confusion as to who this film is meant for, but even a 14 year old girl might feel a bit insulted at the ridiculous amount of hand-holding on display here.
Worse, the film is almost abnormally lacking in suspense or scares. Granted, seeing the original (which it follows in a general sense, though thankfully isn’t an almost exact replica like The Eye) doesn’t help, but even if you hadn’t seen it, I can’t see how anyone would be scared by the time the 19th dream sequence rolls around, and the scare scenes are presented very half-assed, with no build up (and since they are all dreams, there is no payoff either). In fact, even for a PG-13 this film is remarkably tame, with only one (off-screen) death in the entire thing. If not for the occasional swear and a joke involving the stepmother’s vibrator, this could probably get a straight up PG.
Speaking of the vibrator, this scene is a bit confusing. The girls take the batteries out to get back at their stepmom. In theory, this is OK, but if you think about it, it’s ridiculous. The whole reason they hate the woman in the first place is because she is fucking their father. If she goes to use her vibrator and the damn thing doesn’t work, she’s just going to fuck their dad even more! Score, I guess? Dumb broads.
Another thing that is a major problem is that it might be too obvious to even new audiences that the sister is a ghost/figment of the imagination/whatever (she’s dead, OK?). In Sixth Sense, there was always a good reason for no one talking to Bruce Willis in the few scenes that he was shown with someone else (i.e. his wife was angry for ‘missing’ their anniversary dinner), but here it’s almost laughable how no one acknowledges the sister, who is almost always around and ‘talking’ to people. Obviously it’s a tricky thing to balance, but while Sixth Sense was pretty successful, this film is not at all. For what it’s worth, there’s an episode of Scrubs that pulls off this trick better than any film I’ve ever seen. Check it out, it’s in the 3rd season (I can’t say which episode or else it’d kind of spoil the surprise, duh. Just watch em all! Great show).
So is there anything worthwhile in this remake? Well, the two sisters and their stepmom (Slither’s (and Scrubs'!) Elizabeth Banks) are easy on the eyes, that’s for sure, and the acting is good all around (the always dependable David Straithairn plays their father). And I admit I was pleasantly surprised by the new ending, which is actually MORE downbeat than the original in a few ways. This presents a few problems with the narrative (a character acts creepy and suspicious throughout the film, because we think they are the killer, but it turns out they aren’t, which makes their actions sort of nonsensical in retrospect), but kudos to pulling the rug out from under the feet of those who saw the original and were pretty bored by that point.
Unfortunately, it’s too little too late. Having an ending that differs from a film that is superior on every level doesn’t quite make it worth watching. Since I’m not the target audience, I guess I can’t complain if a few teenage girls see this and decide to check out the original, but they are likely to prefer the American one due to the simpler story and standard modern horror elements (i.e. a WB ready love interest for the main girl). It’s a good story, it’s a shame that one version is so dumbed down and the other is perhaps a bit too head-scratching for a general audience to fully enjoy.
On a final note, you may have noticed this is a test screening review (first for HMAD I think?). I dunno when the movie is actually coming out, and based on the remarks and comments from the folks in the focus group, the movie that comes out may be about dragons fighting puppies for all I know. So if it comes out and this review doesn't make sense anymore - sorry bout that.
What say you?