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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Life + Arts

‘Uninvited’ screams uninventive plot

The Uninvited has almost no marketing push behind it, little-known actors instead of big names and a title that’s weirdly similar to another recent horror flick, The Unborn.

A coherent, believable plot, something that’s only slightly important in a film, was apparently left uninvited too.

Yet with a few decent thrills, hilariously cheese ball dialogue, and a strangely compelling final act, The Uninvited crosses that line of ‘so dumb it’s almost good,’ becoming the sort of easily digestible, easily forgotten thriller perfect for a Friday night at the cinema.

The film opens with Anna (Emily Browning) talking with a psychiatrist, reliving the events that caused her to attempt suicide months before.

Anna’s mother, sick and bedridden, was killed in a fire while Anna, returning home from a party, could only watch helplessly.

Anna is eventually released from the psychiatric hospital to live with her father who, to Anna’s surprise, has become romantically involved with the family’s former caretaker, Rachael (Elizabeth Banks).

Anna begins to suspect that Rachael is responsible for her mother’s death, likely because Rachel always speaks in a coarse whisper, and ominous music plays when she walks into the room.

Anna tries to warn her father of Rachael’s dastardly intentions, but with Anna having just been released from the mental hospital, he no longer takes her seriously.

Instead, Anna is left to sulk with her defiant but withdrawn sister, Alex. Together, the sisters suffer at the hands of their menacing stepmother.

The plot won’t win any awards for originality, but when things start becoming too predictable, there is a rather ingenious twist to make for an entertaining final 10 minutes.

The preceding 80 minutes were just as entertaining, but for different reasons. Here, the entertainment stems from main characters speaking loudly of their secret plans when a certain evil stepmother is right around the corner, eavesdropping.

Amusement also can be found in a scene where Anna, being hunted by a suspected killer, inexplicably decides it’s the perfect time for a nap. With a little patience and a sense of humor, The Uninvited can be a lot of fun.

Its familiar themes and characters make The Uninvited seem like an odd mishmash of thrillers such as What Lies Beneath, The Ring and Fatal Attraction. However, while those films created a palpable sense of fear and tension, The Uninvited shoots for the easier, less satisfying knee-jerk scare.

Dead bodies and ghostly schoolchildren will continuously pop out of dark spaces to terrorize Anna and get a rise out of teenagers. The threat of a gold-digging seductress gives a human face to the conflict, but other attempts at a scare become tired and clich’eacute;d.

If reviews of The Uninvited seem like a mixed bag and the recommendations conflicted, it’s because it is a mixed bag. The movie is derivative, silly and capable of producing several groan-worthy and unintentionally hilarious moments.

It’s not a masterpiece of cinema, but anyone who expects The Uninvited to provoke any serious thought or discussion is probably missing the point. The film is simply an often entertaining, 90-minute diversion, and these are difficult to come by.

The Uninvited
Rated: PG-13
Starring: Emily Browning, David Strathairn, Elizabeth Banks, Arielle Kebbel
Verdict: If you want to be scared, look elsewhere.

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