‘The Uninvited' is not particularly inviting

This rote film trudges along, but at least the ending has a twist.

01/30/2009 12:00 AM

01/29/2009 3:20 PM

The horror film genre has catered almost exclusively to teenagers for more than a decade now. But “The Uninvited,” an English-language remake of the 2003 Korean smash “Janghwa, Hongryeon,” is the first Hollywood horror flick I've seen that seems like it was made specifically for 12-year-olds.

That's not meant to imply that “The Uninvited,” which marks the directorial debut of brothers Charles and Thomas Guard, is written at an infantile level. This is definitely not a movie for children, and not just because one scene revolves around a jumbo-sized female sexual aid nicknamed “Mr. Chubby.”

But “The Uninvited” will feel much less derivative to viewers young enough not to have seen any of the remakes of spooky ghost stories from Japan like “The Ring” or “The Grudge,” or any of the cookie-cutter American thrillers in which an evil intruder worms their way into the lives of ordinary people (like “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” or “Pacific Heights”).

Both tropes feature prominently in “The Uninvited,” which centers on Anna (Emily Browning), a teen who is having visions of ghosts who claim the fire that killed her mother was set by the beautiful Rachael (Elizabeth Banks), soon to become her stepmother.

There's something not quite right about Rachael, who often hints at bad things in her past and loses her temper a little too quickly when Anna or her older sister, Alex (Arielle Kebbel), don't do as they are told.

For more than an hour, “The Uninvited” chugs along on a seemingly rote and predictable track, but the Guard brothers know exactly what they're doing. It's safe to say you won't see the ending of this one coming. That climax is not enough to make the formulaic nature of what's preceded any easier to sit through. Unless you happen to be 12, in which case “The Uninvited” may well seem like the scariest movie ever made.

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