Emily Browning has come a long way since “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Browning, who surprisingly will be 21 this December, has a great look for horror/dark films. I was unsure of her ability to portray the victim (spoiler: ..in this case, mental patient gone mad), but she did a great job. I must say, though, I really did like “Lemony Snicket.” It could have been Jim Carey’s amazingness, but Browning and co-star Liam Aiken (Ben in “Stepmom”) really blew me away in that one. But enough with that, this review is about “The Uninvited.”
The story starts out with the audience experiencing a horrifying dream through the mind of Anna, a young troubled girl who we see in a mental hospital at the end of the dream. After the tragic death of her mother in a house fire, Anna attempts to commit suicide by cutting her wrists, and is sent to the mental hospital. The day we see her, the psychiatrist tells her she can go home and her father (David Strathairn) comes to pick her up.
She goes to meet her sister, Alex (Arielle Kebbel – Carrie in “John Tucker Must Die”) at the lake and runs into dad’s new girlfriend, Rachael (Elizabeth Banks – “Meet Bill”). Rachael tries and tries to get Alex and Anna to not hate “daddies new girlfriend” but is unsuccessful. Anna keeps having strange dreams that make her believe that the house fire that killed her mother wasn’t an accident. In one of her dreams, her dead mother is pointing a finger at Rachael and screams, “murderer!” Anna tells Alex about her dreams and they are determined to uncover all her secrets and reveal them to their father. But it’s too late. Rachael tells Anna’s boyfriend-kind of, Matt, to stay away from the house because he knows too much and Rachael tells the girls that “they won’t take this from” her, meaning that they won’t get in the way of her being with their father. Their dad goes away on a business trip and the girls are left alone with Rachael. Is it me, or does this plot sound a little too already-been-done-before? Well, what it comes down to is that the girls tell Rachael that they know she changed her name and she’s been lying to their father (they are convinced she murdered another family years ago). Rachael overhears their plot to tell the police and she cleverly catches Alex and sedates her, so she can’t be of anymore harm. Anna runs upstairs to save her sister, but she is too heavily sedated to leave, so Anna steals Rachael’s car and drives to the police station. The cop says that he will go look into it, but instead Anna wakes up in his office hours later to him holding her down and Rachael injecting her with sedatives as well. Tricky, tricky! Bad cop or bad plot? You’ll see. Hint: Have you seen “The Messengers?” It’s kind of like that…sort of. Yeah, anyway. We see Rachael carrying Anna back up to her room and changing her into a nightgown, because she is too “drunk” to do it herself. We see Anna reaching for a knife on her bed-side table, but we also see Rachael reaching her in time to take it away because her reflexes are faster than someone under sedation, right? Well, then the audience sees Alex come up from behind Rachael and mimes, “shhh” to her sister. Then the screen goes black. We see Anna wake up in her white nightgown and she follows a trail of blood to the outside patio.
She opens a deep freezer-type thing to find Rachael’s mutilated body and Alex comes out of the shadows saying that “they had no other choice,” right as their father drives up screaming to know what happened. “We had to do it Dad, she was trying to kill us! She sedated us and was going to stab us like she did the other family!” Anna screams at her father. “You tell him, Anna! Make him listen!’ Alex tells her sister. “We who? Alex? Anna, but Alex… Anna, Alex died in the fire over a year ago, what have you done?” their dad says to Anna as the audience begins to understand a bit more of the already-been-done plot. “Dad! The fire wasn’t an accident. It was her, it was Rachael,” Anna tries to persuade her father. “What do you mean the fire wasn’t an accident?” he says more calmly. And then we see a flashback as Anna begins to finally remember what happened that night. She came home from the party at the beach, heard her father and Rachael having sex in his room as her sick mother was in the boat house, angered – she decides to go down to the boathouse to get what I’m guessing is some type of lighter fluid and lets it leak all over the floor, when she slams the door, a candle falls and the whole boat house (occupying her mother and sister) bursts into flames. We come back to the present as Anna screams for her sister through the flames. Now we begin to understand. Angsty teenager tries to get revenge on her adultery-committing father and accidentally is responsible for her two best friends’ deaths, goes crazy, attempts suicide and tries to “finish what she started” when she leaves the mental hospital. Well, she succeeded. The last scene is her being taken away by the cops with a “you got what you deserved” look toward her father who stares at her through the window as they take her back to the mental hospital.
This is some crazy stuff. It reminds me of “The Messengers” in the sense that the one who was responsible for the past and present harm is someone in the household who doesn’t remember the past but goes crazy at the present. If you’ve seen “The Messengers” then you will understand. It’s one of those pre-“Twilight” Kristen Stewart movies. Decent for scares and acting, but not an award-winner, of course. I own it, though. But anyway, the movie did scare me at times, but nothing compared to how “The Strangers” scared me, which is I think the last horror film I saw in theaters. There were some screams, but I think they were more pity screams than anything, because people wanted to be scared, and we were the oldest ones in the audience and we’re 21.
I will give it this, though. It had me on not being able to completely guess the ending. I’m ashamed to say that I was not able to figure it out until the dad said, “Alex died in the fire.” The whole time I was convinced that Elizabeth Banks was the evil stepmother-type who would sedate the children of the rich man she was after this time and kill his children and make it look like an accident…I’ve seen too many movies. So, we see that Alex never was really alive and Anna was crazy all along. The writers make you feel sorry for her the whole time, thinking that no one will believe her and that they all thing she’s crazy, when really, you shouldn’t feel sorry for her for anything other than the fact that her dad was a cheating whore.
Ratings? I would give the actors, Emily and Arielle a 4 out of 5, because I think they did exceptionally well in this film as up-and-coming actors. On scare-value, I would give it a 3 out of 5 stars. I wanted to feel more jumpy. I guess it makes it less scary when it is a 16 year old girl killer than a masked man with an ax…right? haha. The movie as a whole? 3.5 out of 5. If you want to see a scary movie with a date, hold out for “Friday the 13th” coming out in two weeks and rent this one on DVD if you really want to see it. It’s good, but there are some good thrillers coming up.