I suspect that the "casual" horror fans think that the "hardcore' horror fans hate them a whole lot. I mean, we're always complaining about PG-13 this and "clueless teenagers" that, as if we believe that there's no place on the horror landscape for "lighter" fare. Such is most certainly not the case, as there are tons of relatively family-friendly horror flicks that are grade-A classics. (Poltergeist, anyone? The Others? Anything pre-1968?) It's just that when a production company jams a horror remake onto the assembly line before the original's fifth birthday ... well, the result is usually a limp, lethargic, scare-free experience whose only hope at profitability lies in the accessibility of said film. In other words, PG-13 generally sells more tickets than R, and that's regardless of quality -- or lack thereof. Think back to flicks like One Missed Call, Shutter, or Pulse and you'll get what I mean.
But every once in a while there pops up a surprisingly half-decent entry in the "PG-13 Asian Thriller Remake" parade, and the latest is The Uninvited. Based on a rather excellent Korean chiller called A Tale of Two Sisters, the remake may have the style (and perhaps even the plot) of a glorified TV movie, but it's actually one of the best Asia-to-America adaptations since way back when The Ring (or was it The Grudge?) first got the ball rolling. Granted, that's not exactly high praise, but we've come to expect so little from these remakes -- I think it's worth mentioning when one of 'em actually works.
The story is simple: Poor young Anna (Emily Browning) is returning home, one year after the death of her mother AND some time spent in a nice, quiet loony bin. Anna can't wait to return to the family's large (isolated) house and reunite with big sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel), but there's a new catch: Seems that Dad (David Strathairn) has become extra-close with the nurse who once cared for mother, and it doesn't take long before Anna and Alex discover a whole bunch of skeletons in their potential stepmother's closet.
From there it's a series of quiet thrills, low-key chills, and (yes) unexpected plot developments as The Uninvited reaches the 85-minute mark and then hits the road in crisp and efficient fashion.
Bolstered immeasurably by strong acting performances (Kebbel and Browning make for a pair of sympathetic (if slightly suspicious) protagonists, Banks has fun playing evil, and Strathairn is underused but as excellent as ever) and a visual approach that's both stately and spooky. The Uninvited is actually quite a lot better than most of its PG-13 ilk -- and I suspect that the movie fans who enjoy creepy tales sans all the gore and carnage will soon discover (and appreciate) this cool little thriller. It doesn't remake A Tale of Two Sisters as much as it condenses (and slightly sanitizes) it, but it's plainly obvious that the "remakers" had a lot of admiration for the original film.
The DVD comes with a standard yet entertaining 19-minute "making of" featurette, which includes numerous interview segments with co-directors Charles and Tom Guard, producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, screenwriter Craig Rosenberg, and all of the lead actors. (This just in: Elizabeth Banks is really pretty.)
Also included are four non-essential deleted scenes (which is probably why they've been deleted) and a "meh" of an alternate ending. PLUS this DVD has trailers for Star Trek and Transformers 2 on it, and those were fun to watch real loud, believe me.