Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Emily Browning, David Strathairn
Directed by: Charles and Thomas Guard (debuts)
Written by: Craig Rosenberg (“After the Sunset”), Doug Miro (“The Great Raid”) and Carlo Bernard (“The Great Raid”)
The comedy genre has the Farrelly brothers, action flicks have the Wachowskis, and the Coens are at the top of their game in the drama department. Could the Guard brothers be the answer horror movie lovers have been looking for in familial filmmaking? Don’t hold your breath.
In “The Uninvited,” Charles and Thomas Guard give their own take on the 2003 Korean horror film “A Tale of Two Sisters.” A hybrid ghost story and domestic thriller, the film feels like a cheap combination of “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” and “The Sixth Sense” and cheats the audience out of what should have been a supernatural indulgence.
Australian actress Emily Browning (“Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events”) stars as Anna Rydell, a young girl recently released from a mental hospital where she was staying after the death of her mother. Despite still having indistinguishable nightmares and creepy hallucinations when doctors discharge her, Emily returns home to live with her sister Alex (Arielle Kebble), her father Steven (David Strathairn), and his girlfriend Rachael (Elizabeth Banks), who was once a live-in nurse for their sickly mother. “Welcome to your new ward,” Alex tells her sister. “Better food, crazier people.”
Something, however, is not sitting well with Emily when she becomes part of the new family dynamic. She is convinced the ghosts in her nightmares are trying to warn her about her future stepmother. When a young man who works at the local grocery store tells Emily he saw something unusual the night of the fire that took her mother’s life, she starts to believe the images she sees hold the secrets of the tragedy.
Short on shocking moments, the biggest flub “The Uninvited” dishes out is its horribly uneven tone. At times, it feels like it wants to go the way of “The Grudge” or “The Ring” in terms of scare tactics and then it flips on a dime and tries to become a serious Hitchcockian thriller. The Guard brothers can’t muster up nearly enough imagination to have the best of both worlds. It’s evident that they’ve lost their way from the muddled first half to the typical twisting conclusion that doesn’t come soon enough.