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With: Emily Browning, Arielle Kebbel, David Strathairn, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Massar, Kevin McNulty, Jesse Moss, Dean Paul Gibson, Don S. Davis, Lex Burnham, Matthew Bristol, Danny Bristol, Heather Doerksen, Alfred E. Humphreys, Ryan Cowie
Written by: Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard, based on a screenplay by Kim Jee-Woon
Directed by: The Guard Brothers (Charles Guard, Thomas Guard)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violent and disturbing images, thematic material, sexual content, language and teen drinking
Running Time: 87
Date: 01/30/2009

The Uninvited (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Sister Pact

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though I have been aware of it for some time, I did not manage to see Kim Ji-woon's A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) before I saw the American remake, The Uninvited. I'm sure there's no real comparison, but taken on its own, The Uninvited has a good deal to recommend it. Not least of all we get an excellent cast, starting with Emily Browning as the apple-cheeked Anna, a young teen who has spent several months recovering in a mental facility after the death of her mother in a fire. Her loving dad (David Strathairn), a published author, picks her up for some nice father/daughter time. She arrives home and tension immediately springs up between herself and her dad's new girlfriend, Rachael (Elizabeth Banks). She also connects with her sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) and they bond over the new situation. Over time, the sisters discover that something fishy is going on, and that Rachael may have been involved with their mother's death; moreover, she may be on the warpath to get dad all to herself, going so far as to murder the sisters. (This is all made worse by the fact that Anna keeps dreaming and/or hallucinating about various ghosts.) Of course, there's more than meets the eye. Directed by British short film masters Charles and Thomas Guard (credited as "The Guard Brothers"), the film does fall prey to some of the genre's usual short cuts, i.e. characters behaving stupidly, but it also takes time to set up a mood and some fleshed-out characters. It knows how to take rest breaks, creating a rhythm, and it uses its location -- a seaside town (shot in British Columbia) -- to maximum effect. It also had me in its grip for a great majority of the running time, and even managed to fool me at its climax.

DVD Details: Dreamworks' DVD comes with a twenty-minute making-of featurette with all the usual stuff, six minutes of deleted scenes, and a not-very interesting alternate ending. Plus there are trailers for Star Trek, Transformers 2 and other titles. But the movie's good enough for a second look.

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