Occasionally I still rent movies from Itunes. I was in the mood for a decent horror flick considering the time of year, and I read reviews recommending "The Uninvited". It also featured one of my favorite young actresses, Emily Browning.
I feel that the best horror is firmly grounded in reality. Yes, spooks and monsters are fun but at the end of the movie or book we can forget about them. But in reality what really frightens us is society...we fear one another. "The Uninvited" takes advantage of this fear by mixing it up with the evil stepmother fairy tale trope. Another fun fact that the movie pushes up front but deftly allows us to forget is that our young heroine is an untrustworthy protagonist. For an audience willing to be led, she turns into a brave young girl coming home after recovering from a mental breakdown. Only to discover that her father has taken up with a young female not too much older than herself. And even more, it looks as if this young amour has a shady past. The heroine and her rebellious sister decide to solve the mystery of this interloper themselves.
Of course, since the heroine is mentally fragile, what we see is not reality. Which is why the movie requires two viewings. One to enjoy the creepy atmosphere inside the heroine's paranoid delusions and the next to see the reality peeking through her nightmares.
What we ultimately discover, is that the heroine was never safe or sane. Long before the movie starts, she was already cracking under the pressure of being an adolescent and dealing with a fatally ill mother. We understand that her boyfriend was pushing a sexual relationship on her which frightened her. After fleeing from him during a beach party, she makes a disturbing discovery at home. Which pushes her over the edge into a murderous rage. However this breakdown has unforeseen consequences that land her in a psychiatric institute. The audience is only allowed a glimpse into this life, of which we see that our heroine was keeping company with a violent looking girl.
The movie plays with horror but is careful never to wallow in it. Our heroine uses these stereotypical horror tropes to feed her own delusions. Once they convince her of her mission, the movie conveniently drops them. She is a female Hamlet determined to save her home at any cost.
The acting is fantastic and rests on the shoulders of the three female leads: Emily Browning, Arielle Kebbel and Elizabeth Banks. All of which are convincing as a step family of back biting females. But it is Elizabeth Banks whose performance holds up the premise of the film. Her performance is so understated that it supports both the heroine's crazy suppositions and the real character underneath.
Official reviews panned the film. Honestly I don't understand what caused so much rancor from the group. The film does what it sets out to do. Which considering most of the dreck that comes from Hollywood these days, is no small feat.
Labels: commentary, culture, holiday, horror, movies, reviews