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February 15, 2009
Review - " The Uninvited "  - (in Theaters) By Roland Hansen
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The Uninvited
Emily Browning, Elizabeth Banks, Arielle Kebbel - the Uninvited
"The Uninvited"   (DreamWorks Pictures)  
Directed by: Charles & Thomas Guard
Cast: Emily Browning, Elizabeth Banks, Arielle Kebbel and David

In the haunting suspense thriller "The Uninvited," Anna (Emily
Browning) returns home after spending time in a psychiatric facility
following her mother's tragic death and discovers that her mother's
former nurse, Rachel (Elizabeth Banks), has moved into their
house and become engaged to her father, Steven (David
Strathairn). Soon after she learns this shocking news, Anna is
visited by her mother's ghost, crying out for revenge and pointing
an accusing finger at Rachel. Together, Anna and her sister, Alex
(Arielle Kebbel), must convince their father that his new fiancee is
not who she pretends to be, and what should have been a happy
family reunion becomes a lethal battle of wills between
stepdaughters and stepmother. But Anna may be underestimating
Rachel – perhaps fatally so.

I was pleasantly surprised with "The Uninvited", because it ended
up being much more than your typical teenage horror thriller. First
off, the screen writing is wonderful here. The same "evil
stepparent" setup has been done before, but there are a number
of plot twists, turns of events, and nice little quirks that keep it from
being too average. The film overall was really unpredictable in
most respects. The supernatural lacing in the story is well done
too, combining ghosts and spirits with real-life danger that
threatens our two leading ladies.
The screenplay was very good, the cinematography captured the rocky coastline of Maine nicely, and the film was helped
by good performances. Emily Browning (of 2004's "Lemony Snicket") plays the leading role as the curious and quiet
younger sister, playing her role perfectly with the face of an angel. Arielle Kebbel is also very good as her older,
party-loving (but serious) sister, who aids her in the uncovering of Rachael's past. Rachael herself, the devilish
stepmother figure, is played by Elizabeth Banks, and manages to be threatening and elusive despite her stunning good
looks. Also notable is David Strathairn (from "Dolores Claiborne") as the unbelieving father. The ensemble of actors here
is strong, and their chemistry with each other surprisingly really works, which I think added a lot to the film.

Most of the movie deals with the relationship of sisters Anna and Alex with Rachel, the girlfriend of their father. Anna thinks
Rachel murdered their late mother and possibly was behind some earlier unsolved murders. However, Anna was recently
released from a mental institution and has some emotional issues that raises more suspicions about her than about
Rachel. On the other hand, Rachel has some questionable aspects about her past that don't seem quite right. This
guessing game continues until the dramatic ending.

The cinematography is impressive, and setting is remarkable, as the entire film unfolds in the confines of a beautiful, large
New England home that sits perched on the side of the rocky ocean cliffs, a location that gives plenty of space for creepy
action to unfold. It's atmospheric because of this as well, and has a comfortable, yet, more often than not, creepy, isolated
feel to it. I like the fact that the film takes its time building itself, shying away from being too shocking and posing plenty of
questions in its first act, and then kicking into gear in the second and tossing the shocking truth behind all of the events
right at your face. The ever-tiring jump scares are limited here, with suspense being the more the main focus, which was
really welcome and a change from the norm. The pacing is delectable, and the tension is present as it grows toward the
climax, which is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

As far as the ending is concerned, I won't spoil things, but it's clever, really. It completely came out of left field for me, and I
was dumbfounded and giddy with anxiousness within the final ten minutes. Sure, similar plot twists have come about
before - but it was really unexpected - and the funny thing is, after thinking about it, there are clues that are dropped
along the way. Problem is, they're so subtle that the viewer doesn't even notice, and I really liked that. I was completely
caught off-guard. And the final shot is an innocently creepy seal on the envelope of a clever and entertaining horror

Overall, "The Uninvited" is a very welcome change from the standard PG-13 horror pictures, and has the caliber of much
more sophisticated horror movies. The classic horror atmosphere, creepy sets, and tense character interactions make this
movie work, not to mention the twisted ending which is an unexpected smack in the face. "The Uninvited" is an enormously
fun, well-constructed flick that retains an elegance that most horror movies nowadays fail to achieve.

This was a pretty good fright flick. It kept the viewer engaged right up to the ending and while it seemed somewhat
formulaic in terms of plot development and things that go bump in the night, it had plenty of scary moments and more than
served its purpose, which was a few hours of entertainment.