I was just old enough in the mid-1980s to remember the cultural discussion in America that led to the PG-13 rating. Parents were concerned about the level of violence in PG fare like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and this ultimately led to the creation of the now-popular movie rating. The PG-13 rating has become a rather cynical device, I think, as it now seems like movie producers try to figure out just how much violence and profanity they can get away with in Hollywood products and yet not receive the family-unfriendly R rating. (Though, many families don't seem to bat an eye about the R rating - when I went with a friend to see the recent revamp of Friday the 13th on its opening day, I was struck by how many parents felt their young children were perfectly capable of handling a grisly slasher film.)
The Uninvited, directed by the Guard Brothers, is a PG-13 theatrically-released horror movie recently packaged on home video by Dreamworks. Unlike many others of its ilk, this production feels genuine; in other words, the story is a perfectly suited PG-13. It in no way seems like an R-rated venture pared down just enough for families. I'm not surprised that it was released on DVD without an unrated cut with a tagline like "too shocking for theaters." The Uninvited is a brooding psychological ghost yarn involving a young girl, her frustrations, and brimming adolescent rage - and it hits all the appropriate horrific notes as it is.
The Uninvited tells the tale of Anna (Emily Browning), an emotionally fragile teenaged girl who has just been released from a mental institution. Her sickly mother died the year before, and Anna has had a hard time coping. Not helping matters, her father (David Strathairn) has now allowed her mother's attractive - and much younger - nurse, Rachel (Elizabeth Banks), to move in to the family home as his girlfriend. When Anna returns home, she learns that her older and equally troubled sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) resents the fact that she was away during this difficult transition.
Rachel appears to be genuine in her desire to smooth things over with Anna, but ghostly visions and Alex's suspicions fuels Anna's interest in covertly learning more about Rachel and the circumstances that led to her mother's death. Needless to say, sinister dealings are afoot.
I really enjoyed The Uninvited, but I can also see why some wouldn't. This is not, as I've mentioned already, R-rated territory. Many horror film fans like their movies explicit and fast-paced, and The Uninvited, in a relative sense, is neither. It primarily favors, instead, mood and jump scares. It's also a movie with a twist ending, and like the work of M. Night Shyamalan, its success largely hinges upon whether the audience accepts the mind game the plot is playing. I liked the ending, but I will admit that the movie manipulates the audience, with several scenes throughout being revealed at the end as transpiring differently than they were shown.
What I most appreciated about The Uninvited was its strong cast. Emily Browning and Arielle Kebbel are very convincing as the teen sisters. Browning is especially good: her large, expressive eyes and cherubic features lend themselves well to the fragile characteristics of the film's heroine. Elizabeth Banks, better known for comedic roles in such recent fare as Zack and Miri Make a Porno and the very funny Role Models, is surprisingly effective as the nurse who has worked her way into the family. It helps to have an Academy Award nominated actor, though David Strathairn's role is limited by the plot.
The Uninvited is also nicely shot, utilizing locations well to help establish mood. The well-to-do family lives in an isolated house on a lake, a beautiful place to have a little horror movie. Ultimately, this film may not be for everyone - but it is one of the better PG-13 horror films I've seen in a while. Highly recommended.
Dreamworks gives The Uninvited an anamorphic widescreen presentation in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Details seemed a little soft, but colors are strong - and location shots, especially with the house on the lake, are captured nicely.
This DVD has three language tracks: English, French, and Spanish. All three are in Dolby Digital 5.1, with the English track apparently set as the default. Dialogue is always clear. Sound effects play a large role, of course, in this fright flick - and the track does a nice job of presenting them in a dynamic manner.
Optional subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish.
Trailers for Star Trek, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and Van Wilder: Freshman Year precede the main menu. They're also available, collectively, through a Previews link in the menu system.
The movie-specific extras are okay, though they could have provided more depth. Unlocking the Uninvited (19:01) goes over the film's origins and has the participation of various cast and crew members. Deleted Scenes (5:40) total four in number, and they can be played individually or collectively. An Alternate Ending (0:52) doesn't work as well as the ending the filmmakers went with. All three extras are presented in anamorphic widescreen.
The Uninvited may alienate some horror-goers as it's PG-13 rated fare. However, strong performances from the cast, especially Emily Browning and Elizabeth Banks, and a trick ending that effectively manipulates the viewer, make this a nicely-crafted, if admittedly implausible, psychological ghost story. Highly recommended.