WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.
This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com
The Uninvited (2009)
: 32% critics, 49% audience
We watched on Netflix.
An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “Anna Ivers returns home to her sister Alex after a stint in a mental hospital, though her recovery is jeopardized thanks to her cruel stepmother. Her dismay quickly turns to horror when she is visited by ghastly visions of her dead mother.”
This movie was a remake of a Korean movie you watched previously. How do you feel about remakes of foreign horror films?
Mikey: Hmm. If I think back to ones I’ve seen, I think they probably haven’t been very impressive. I guess a remake in general is kind of a dumb idea - there are only like 5 different stories in the world, why not call your movie something new and just make it inspired by the one you want to copy? More originality is a good thing.
It looks like I didn’t review this one (A Tale of Two Sisters) previously, which is too bad, but I do vaguely remember seeing it! After checking the IMDB synopsis, it’s pretty similar to this remake, but it sure ends up in a different place.
I want to jump right to the end, but that would be doing a disservice to everything that leads up to the end. I thought this movie did an excellent job of building up the tension and suspense from the very first scene.
My first question is actually about the first scene. It’s considered pretty cliche within writing circles to start with a dream sequence. Do you think they managed to avoid the cliche by having it be her telling the dream to her psychologist? Or did that just make it even MORE cliche?
Mikey: It was clear from how she told it that it was a dream (that whole present tense narration, doesn’t seem to ever mean anything else!), so I feel like it’s avoiding the real problem with that cliche, which is “you just watched all this, thinking it was real stuff, but surprise, none of it counts!” And after all, not only did we know it was a dream, it also does count! It contained lots of useful information about stuff that happened in her past. So I approve it.
That’s a good point. There are lots of useful bits of information scattered throughout her dream. A lot of it was so heavily foreshadowed that I was able to predict things I maybe shouldn’t have been able to predict.
Mikey: There were so many puzzle pieces in this movie, but I like that they smoothly clicked together unlike the last movie! For the first ⅔ or more, it was all about just collecting the pieces and not knowing where they went. I spent the whole movie generating different theories of where it was all going… were you doing that?
Yes! And that’s one of the things I liked best about this movie. I spent the whole time making guesses about what might happen. Each guess was more interesting and fun than the previous one AND I still didn’t really figure out exactly what was happening until the very end. I found the mystery aspect of this story exceptionally satisfying. You?
Mikey: Oh yes, this is why I watch movies! I want to play that game. I kept re-writing the ending in my head about every 5 minutes as I watched the movie. That’s a lot different from something like a Schwarzenegger movie where you just want to see what over-the-top method he uses to blow up the final badguy, who you knew was the badguy from the first scene. Which is also fun. But the mystery and puzzle is the most fun for me. I don’t know what else I can even say about the movie, it’s one of those cases where I actually don’t want to spoil it, though I do want to discuss the spoiler-requiring elements.
I know what you mean. I don’t want to give anything away. I want to tell everyone I know “You just have to watch it!” That’s not something I’ve worried about yet this month… except maybe with The Invitation
. Something I always struggle with as I watch movies with an element of suspense or mystery is that I create endings in my head, like you said, but I’m constantly wondering if it’s the movie that’s being clever and leading me to this interesting idea I had or if I’m out-thinking the movie. Often it’s the latter, which leaves me super disappointed at the conclusion.
Mikey: Oh yeah, that recalls something in this movie: the stepmom. The movie took great violent effort to make her a nasty piece of work. So much so that I was certain she was not evil. And that’s like a game of cat-and-mouse you play with the movie: do I choose the villain in front of me, or in front of you? Clearly, I can’t choose the one in front of the movie because the movie would obviously poison it with evil…
Never start a land war in Asia!
Mikey: It’s almost like a test of whether the movie is good: if she was evil, and they made her so overtly evil, that’s lame. But is that really still true? I mean we’ve learned that lesson over decades of movies, maybe it’s time for the double-double-cross. After all, I knew she wasn’t because they made her seem so.
This movie waited SO long for the final answer of that question - literally the very last action in the very last scene - that it puts it into the “good” category for me. Even after everything went down and we knew most of what had happened… I STILL wasn’t sure whether the step-mom was evil or not. That was very well done.
Mikey: They twisted back and forth so many times that either answer would be un-lame by that point. I think that’s the answer to how to do it right.
Almost all of the question and criticism I have in my notes were addressed in the movie in such a way that they were no longer a concern. I am very fond of movies and books that create a whole crazy tangle of loose ends but still manage to weave them all into a tapestry by the end. This is a great example of that.
I find that often stories that started in a different culture have more unexpected, and therefore interesting, elements. How much of the uniqueness of the story do you think comes from it being a remake of a Korean film?
Mikey: Yeah, it’s nice to be exposed to those different ideas that the culture you’re already locked into just won’t let you think. Mind-expanding! I can’t really spot anything in here that doesn’t feel like an American movie (other than the style of the ghosts, which is not really a plot element)... but I’m glad they were able to yank a bit of originality from overseas, because Hollywood can have trouble finding that.
I can’t really put my finger on anything that’s not American, either, but there was a definite newness to it. Maybe the sheer complexity of the plot. American movies are often mind-numbingly predictable. It’s possible that the majority of foreign films are the same. They only translate and remake the really good ones.
Mikey: 90% of everything is crap!
True dat. You mentioned the ghosts. That’s my favorite things about horror from other countries. Their ideas of scary are so different from what we’ve been raised on that I occasionally come across something that’s actually scary! Ghosts from Asian cultures, for example, are SUPER creepy to me. I’ve always wondered why our ghosts float and come at us from above while theirs are slithery and come from below. That would make an interesting cultural study: ghosts from different cultures and why they are considered “scary”.
Mikey: That is a deep thought. I wanna do something special now if you are cool with it… how about we rate the movie, and then make a big dividing line for serious spoiler talk? Folks, you shouldn’t be reading this if you haven’t watched the movie!
Ok. I think I’ve seen enough movies to feel comfortable giving this one a 5 out of 5. I was trying not to do that too early… I didn’t want to set the 5 star bar too low and not have anywhere else to go, but this is by far the best one we’ve seen so far.
Mikey: The big fiver! I want to go lower for some headroom, but I think you’re right. Let’s give it the big 5. You can’t just hold that thing forever. This was a big mystery that paced it out exactly right. Excellent.
==== MEGA-SPOILERS BELOW. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE. IT WILL BE RUINED FOR REALSIES. ====
Mikey: Okay, you know what was cool? When I said “she was totally sixth-sensing these people the whole time!” and then they revealed that I was super-smart, and they even did the Sixth Sense flashbacks to demonstrate all the ways she had been not interacting with people. I had noticed some, but others were cool. It’s really exactly like The Sixth Sense, where the scenes work as shown, but on second viewing you realize they make just as much sense if she isn’t there. So cool.
Yep. That was super cool. It was subtle enough that I didn’t notice it until you mentioned it. Then, thinking back, there was a “Whoa!” moment.
I was proud of myself for nailing the watering can importance right away. I’m a little concerned that was because it was too obvious, though.
Mikey: What’s cool is that these things were only a part of the sum total explanation of what went down. The Sixth Sense was just that one trick. In this movie, that’s one element of what is really going on. And yet it all makes sense and is actually not overly complex or unreasonably unlikely in the end, either.
My absolute favorite scene was when Matt showed up in her bedroom, looking all normal, but gradually making it clear that all was not well with him. I thought it was well done, pacing-wise, and also it came across as super romantic. Not so much later, when you knew what had really happened, but still…
Mikey: That’s Bad Romance. That scene was kind of a pivot because for him to have come to her as a ghost, telling her how he died, we now have one of three possible outcomes: she’s psychic, there really are ghosts, or she killed him. In the end, there is nothing paranormal in the movie at all. She just be cray cray.
And yet, I still feel sympathetic toward her. She didn’t seem actually EVIL. Just broken in her brain. Am I being too forgiving?
Mikey: It’s good that it’s not just Ryan Reynolds the serial killer who gets this sympathy. Just like The Voices, it’s really the movie’s fault - they portray her in a completely positive light. Although in this one, I kinda feel like the very end shifts that a little and goes “oh no, she was happy to kill…” when she’s cutting up the pictures.
Question: Did you catch the comment by the psychiatrist in the beginning? When he said, “finish what you started”? Because that was a huge red flag for me. I liked that it wrapped around to the start again.
Mikey: I don’t think I really paid attention to it. He was about as effective a psychiatrist as the one in The Voices too.
Horror movies don’t tend to show mental health professionals in the best light… but if they were doing their jobs correctly, the movies would be way less entertaining.
Mikey: Yeah, “I feel better now, doc! I’ll keep taking these meds.” “Great, have fun!” The end.
One problem I had was with the age of Anna. She was 14ish… but she was so compliant with this step-mother she hated. I didn’t find that very believable, but it was kind of necessary to contrast with how Alex acted. It made me think she was a lot younger than she was, though. Which got creepy when she was making out with the grocery boy.
Mikey: Her stepmom didn’t seem to like that either. I don’t know, I feel like she was going along with things, surviving as best she could. What a horrible situation to be in, even sane.
Maybe. Sometimes it felt manipulative instead of getting along to get along. But that ties into that last little smile, doesn’t it? Yep. This was a GOOD movie.
Mikey: That makes sense. She would certainly try to keep things cool if she had dastardly plans (buried somewhere in the back of her head). Also if she had the imaginary sister as an outlet for her anger.
Oh, valid point!
Mikey: Pretty smart stuff all around. These writers should write other stuff. Hmm, checking IMDB I see some others he wrote we could watch...
Yes. I would watch more movies by these writers/directors. I was pleased with the acting, as well. I didn’t notice anything crazy about the soundtrack or videography, which is generally a good sign. All around, it was solid.
Mikey: Yeah, five stars earned fair and square.
That just means I’m going to be that much more disappointed tomorrow… with whatever we decide to watch.
Mikey: And that will be The Exorcism of Emily Rose, so be sure to join us.