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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Uninvited (Blu-ray)
The Uninvited (Blu-ray)
Dreamworks // PG-13 // April 28, 2009 // Region A
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Michael Zupan | posted April 27, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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Asian horror remakes have fallen in popularity quite some time ago, and with good reason. The American remakes may have started strong enough with the likes of The Ring, but quickly and consistently became a scene that was plagued with titles that were less than average. Despite the dying trend, there always has to be another horse limping across the finish line, and that's as good of an analogy that I can come up with for The Uninvited, which is a remake of A Tale of Two Sisters.

Anna Rydell has had a rough time swallowing life lately, as her mother was suffering from a terminal illness. Watching a family member wither away to nothing isn't an easy thing to do, but the time she should have had left with her was stripped away by a house fire. The sudden loss was just an untimely slap in the face, and sent Anna into a downward spiral that ultimately made her attempt suicide. Unsuccessful at her attempt to make the pain go away, she ended up being institutionalized.

After having enough time to filter out all the bad vibes, Anna returns home. She only expected to see her sister Alex, as well as her father, welcome her home. Oddly enough though, her mother's hospice nurse, Rachael, is also hanging around to greet her with open arms. Trying to resume her normal life was undoubtedly going to be difficult, but Anna's world is turned upside down when she finds out Rachael is her father's new girlfriend. Anna and Alex aren't very appreciative of the latest development in their father's love life. Enough time hasn't passed since they lost their mother, and they resent the fact that their father is coping with his loss by nailing the only other woman that was in his life at the time.

Things go from bad to worse when Anna starts having ghoulish visions of her mother, as well as three children she's never met before. With their cold, icy fingers all pointing accusingly at Rachael, clues quickly begin to unravel the darker side of their father's new fling. It isn't long before Rachael begins to suspect that the girls are getting dangerously close to the truth, and so the game of cat and mouse begins.

Although the plot is incredibly light on originality, the premise was solid enough to provide what could have been an excellent thriller. Every element of this movie had to be crafted to precision though if it was expected to work, but its execution was unsurprisingly poor.

Every concern I have about this film boils down to the script. It doesn't matter if a story is dealing with an emotional struggle, a supernatural element, or both. I'm a firm believer that thrills and chills begin with the audience being able to connect with the leading cast members, and that can't happen without some decent writing. A good script that's clever enough will make the players involved seem like real people, and that will enable the audience to effectively relate to their dilemmas. Instead, the script was as bland and lifeless as a color-by-numbers painting. The dialogue was stale and the moments of suspenseful build-up were uninspired. In the end, I felt like The Uninvited was a flick that tried to pull the same tricks every other horror/thriller used before it, but failed miserably. I didn't find myself startled, scared, in suspense, or anything else for that matter. I never connected with the main characters, so the rest of the puzzle pieces just never fell into place.

Now, Emily Browning is a very talented actress, but casting her for The Uninvited was a mistake. Even with a yawn-worthy script, a spectacular performance may have salvaged this film from being a prime candidate for the $5 bin. When every other aspect of a film like this is seriously lacking, feeling some fear and intensity from the main character is key, and unfortunately that performance was nowhere to be found. The sad thing about this is that it's not entirely her fault! I can't imagine this lackluster script inspiring a truly stellar performance from anyone. The poor girl was set up to fail right from the start. I can't take the blame entirely off her shoulders however, because a different actress might have been able to provide that little extra something this movie needed so desperately. Her performance was much better than the rest of the supporting cast though, even the talented Elizabeth Banks as Rachael, but the script and direction are to blame for their faults as well.

There's not much else that can be said about The Uninvited, as it's just another notch on Hollywood's 'ineffective remake' bedpost. The script was unimaginative in both contextual events and dialogue, causing the entire film to suffer from a complete lack of the suspense that should have been prevalent. Not even the in your face 'boo' scares were able to keep things interesting. The only redeeming quality this movie had at all was its awesome twist ending. The journey to get to the payoff isn't worth treading though unfortunately. I wanted to like this film, really. I was fairly excited after seeing how cool the trailer made it look. Unfortunately, it played every card it had entirely too safe to be entertaining enough to even consider for a rental. You would probably find more merit in watching films like One Missed Call or Shutter, and if that doesn't speak volumes about how dull this film is, I don't know what will.


Video

The Uninvited is encoded at 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC codec, and is faithfully presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

This film looks better than I thought it would on Blu-ray. Starting with the good, most of the scenes look absolutely gorgeous. The colors from the surrounding world, as well as skin tones, are presented in a way that's incredibly natural. Daytime scenes are vivid and lifelike, while darker scenes adapt an ever so slightly muted color palate. Black levels are pretty impressive throughout most of the film, and clarity and detail add a fantastic sense of depth.

The only real complaint I have about how the transfer looks, isn't really about the transfer at all. It has more to do with the artistic choices that were made from time to time, as the movie can be inconsistent on all fronts. Once in a while the blacks don't penetrate as much as they could, and certain shots look too soft for their own good. However, there doesn't appear to be a single speck of dirt on the print, and there aren't any compression issues to speak of either. All in all, this was a a very fine transfer to the Blu-ray format from Dreamworks.


Audio

Much like the video, I have to question the directors artistic choices in the sound department. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track sounds very good for what's been provided, although what's been provided is a little less than impressive.

The dialogue is crisp and clear, the music throughout the film is played flawlessly, and when used the directional audio is fairly impressive. Unfortunately, a good deal of the movie is confined to the front speakers. That's too bad because a movie such as this could have benefitted from a much more immersive directional audio experience. Most of the movie doesn't require the use of rear channels by any means, but the rears could have been used more for subtle, natural sound effects from the environment.

I think the worst mistake the directors made during sound design, was utilizing a fairly quiet track for the voices, and then throwing loud directional nonsense at us whenever appropriate. What a lame, cheap trick fellas. Faithful HD track this may be, but I really wish the directors knew how to create an immersive experience, as opposed to one that's quiet on purpose so they can scare you easier later on.


Extras

The extra sare about as unimpressive as the rest of the package thus far. Unlocking The Uninvited is a nineteen minute behind the scenes featurette, and it made me want to take a nap almost as much as the movie itself did. Four deleted scenes and one alternate ending later, and you'll be left wondering why there wasn't more offered on this release. This film is a remake of A Tale of Two Sisters, so why wasn't there more of a comparison between the two, or clips of the original shown for reference? I'm sure there are a lot of average movie goers out there that have never seen the original, so what's the deal? This truly makes me think the film's name change was intentionally done so they could try and fool people into thinking this wasn't a remake, knowing darn right well a lot of people probably never even heard of A Tale of Two Sisters. Classy, eh?


Overall

The top of the Blu-ray case says 'From the Producers of The Ring and Disturbia', but it may as well have said 'The Uninvited - Living Up To Its Name'. This film had some serious potential when looking at it on paper, or even by the trailer for that matter, but there just wasn't much this film got right at all. The supporting cast was all one dimensional, the leading actress certainly wasn't able to raise the sinking ship, and it's all pretty much due to a script that only succeeds in horrifying because of how bad it is. The Blu-ray has a great video and audio transfer, although the directors artistic choices didn't make this the most desirable title you'd want for your collection. To top it all off, the extras were slim pickins at best. Do yourself a favor and just skip this one.
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