This mildly spooky little number opens with a creepy dream sequence that segues to a scene of our teenaged heroine, Anna (Emily Browning), pouring her heart out to her therapist. We soon learn she has been in a mental institution for the past ten months following the violent death of her ailing mother. The scars on Anna’s wrist attest to deep trauma. Doc is pretty hopeless at deciphering her dreams for her, but seems to think she’s good to go – home, that is. “Go home and finish what you started,” he sagely intones. Whatever that means.
Doting Daddy (David Strathairn) is glad to have his girl back, but the car ride home is probably the last time our girl Anna will have him to herself. You see, Rachael (Elizabeth Banks), the young, blonde nurse who tended to her dying mother, has wasted no time promoting herself from hired help to soon-to-be Step Mom. Anna’s sassy sister and best bud Alex (Arielle Kebbel) shares Anna’s distaste for the sexy usurper.
Next thing you know, the grisly ghost of their mother starts popping up, sepulchrally intoning “Murder!” and evoking the opening scenes of Hamlet to good effect.
Before you can say “I see dead people!” Anna is tracking down info on her Dad’s fiancée and digging around in her murky past. Did the evil Step-Mom-to-be do away with her mother? And is Anna next?!
For a PG-13-rated ghost story, “The Uninvited” has some decent scares and a tricksy plot that should keep you guessing until the end.
Browning does a great job as our troubled, angel-faced heroine and the always wonderful Strathairn is fantastic as her slightly aloof father, torn between his new love and his trouble-making daughter. In true Hollywood fashion, Dad is a star novelist, presumably from the galaxy of Stephen King, judging by the gorgeous waterfront mansion. The casting of Elizabeth Banks in the role of a villain is a far cry from her usually goofy comedic roles and she does a marvelous job of investing even the most innocent lines with menace.
An effective slice of psychological horror, “The Uninvited” is a decent date movie that won’t leave you feeling swindled.
Studio/Official Site: www.uninvitedmovie.com
[Pauline Adamek is a Hollywood-based film, theater, and food critic who files for “FilmInk Australia,” “LA Daily News,” “Sun Community Newspapers,” as well as various websites under the “nom du net” Max Million.]