The Uninvited (2009) Charles Guard and Thomas Guard

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Did you know that American cheese cannot legally be sold in the United States as “cheese”? It has to be labeled as “processed cheese food” or something like that so that no one would accidentally mistake it for cheese. There’s a pretty clear parallel between American cheese and American remakes of foreign horror movies. In America, we love to remix things, take them, water them down with some vegetable oil, filler, old newspapers, whatever. Then we dye them yellow and slap the word American on it and call it a day.

I’m not going to be a snob and say that all U.S. remakes of international horror movies are shit, because there are some decent ones (The Ring comes to mind first). But I will say that for the most part, these movies don’t live up to the originals and should not be remade in the first place. I’ve said this before, but if you can’t be bothered to read subtitles for 90 minutes to experience a superior movie, you should be sterilized by having fish guts poured on your junk and tossing you into a tank full of hungry piranhas. The bastardization on the docket today is The Uninvited, Charles and Thomas Guard’s 2009 remake of A Tale of Two Sisters. The verdict (in case you can’t read between the lines) is that this movie sucks balls. Like I’d rather get a lap dance from a belt-sander than sit through this boring 87-minute shitfest again. I think we should do what the cheese people did and make it illegal to market one of these remakes as “horror”.  Instead we’ll call them “American processed horror film product.”

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Quick question, is it subtle homage or subtle racism to cast a girl that looks vaguely Asian as the lead in an all-white remake of a Korean movie? I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself. Anyway this movie follows the plot of the original pretty closely, but they take the Tarantino-style sequencing away so you lose part of the effect.  (In the original, the big twist comes about half way through the movie). So I’m not going to get too far into a plot synopsis because it will ruin the original. You should probably just watch that and save your time/money on this one.

Teenage girl Anna (the awkwardly not-Asian girl) in a mental hospital after some kind of trauma involving her mother’s death. We’re not really sure what happened till much later. They send her home and she finds and mom’s hot, creepy nurse has moved in and is currently banging the unnaturally tan and handsome widower father. Anna and her sister start to suspect that Daddy’s new gal-pal (played by Elizabeth Banks) had something to do with mommy’s unfortunate demise, and that this is not the first time she’s pulled something like this. The closer they get to solving the mystery, the more scary shit starts happening. Mom’s ghost makes a few appearances in what we’ll call the only “scary” parts of the whole movie.

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I will say, they did a good job with the cinematography. There are some cool things happening with light and shadows throughout the whole movie. Peoples’ faces obscured by shadow in a bright sunlit room, dark shadows cutting across bright areas in this big house. Even the few scenes of ghost mom and a couple of ghost ginger kids were really well done. But there were just too few of them. They used the tried but true pale, twitchy, decomposed body ghost that they use in all these movies, you know, the ones that always look like they’re covered in dead lizard skin, but they did a good job with it. Overall, it looked fantastic but other than that it was garbage.

In short, there is no reason for this movie to exist. It’s like the Glee of horror movies. You take something that you know is great, say, a Beatles song. Cram a bunch of attractive tweens into it and dress them up in mint green Abercrombie and Fitch (is that still a thing?)  polos with popped collars and get them to ruin reenact someone else’s already-successful artistic expression in order to capitalize on it. You can’t use too much autotune or hair gel, just pile it on, but be sure to remove any semblance of actual artistic feeling, human emotion, or original thought.

Once you’re done, pat yourself on the back, you’re living up to the American dream. Go change out of your costume and have the butler make you a grilled American-processed-cheese-food sandwich.

For the record, this was more of a rant than a movie review. If you want to read a real review, go check out the one I wrote for the original. But make sure you watch it first.

  1. Is it scary? 2- I ate a bowl of Count Chocula and it was scarier than this movie.
  2. Originality: 1- It’s a shitty remake that sticks very very closely to the original in terms of storyline. The only departures they made from the original just weakened the movie overall.
  3. Blood: 3- There are a couple of nice bloody scenes but they are few and far between.
  4. Believability: 3- Nobody did anything outrageous like run up a flight of stairs.  But I don’t know if I bought Elizabeth Banks as the creepy evil stepmother. To be fair, I never really liked her, but I see her as a comedy actress, and I don’t know that she was the best choice for this movie.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7- I have to give credit where credit is due. They did a good job here. The DP and the lighting team made it look as scary as possible.

Final Score: 16/50                                                                                              

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A Tale of Two Sisters (Janghwa, Hongryeon) (2003) – Jee-woon Kim

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For the most part, when we watch scary movies, we can identify them as being scary or not scary without actually experiencing real fear. Jee-woon Kim’s 2003 A Tale of Two Sisters did not fall into that category. There were a few scenes in this movie where I was actually afraid-irrationally afraid of… I don’t know what, but something. The movie is so subtle and authentic that it really pulls you in and makes you think you’re in the room with whatever is happening in this movie. A Tale of Two Sisters is dark, unsettling, viciously suspenseful, and really just balls-out scary. And as we all know, Asians are one of the top five scariest races so I think that helps increase the fear factor quite a bit. It’s also why American studios keep sucking huge balls when they try to remake these awesome Korean and Japanese horror flicks.

Part of what makes this movie so effective is that it’s really confusing to watch. Usually, confusing is not a good thing in a movie but the things that happen to the main character, Su-mi are really confusing to her so the confusion the audience feels is intentional and it helps us identify with her and feel what she feels. It’s hard to tell where the plot is going even when you get pretty deep into the movie. Is it supernatural? Is it psychological? Is the house haunted? Is the stepmom a psycho-killer? Or is it the dad? We know something is not as it seems but what is it? The big Shyamalan-twist, if you will, actually comes in the middle and then the remainder of the film is a sort of unraveling and retelling of events that led up to the big climax.

Now, I don’t want to give anything important away so my synopsis will be brief. The film opens with Su-mi sitting in a mental hospital while a psychiatrist unsuccessfully attempts to ask her questions about an undefined traumatic event. Then we flash to Su-mi and her little sister Su-yeon apprehensively entering a secluded old house with their father. They are immediately greeted by a creepy and overly excited stepmother-this greeting already sets you up to show you that this woman is more than a little unhinged. Over the course of the movie, the stepmom becomes more and more unstable and abusive to the girls, especially Su-yeon. But as the plot unfolds, we see that there’s something else lurking in the house that elevates the movie beyond that of just the wicked stepmother. Later, the little family has some guests over for dinner and one of them suddenly falls to the ground, convulsing and freaking out when she sees someone looking back at her from under the kitchen counters.

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Later, the girls are looking through some old photos of their dead mother and they see one of the stepmother standing over the mother while she’s sick in the hospital and we see the father getting close to her too. The stepmom is definitely up to something, but is she the only one? I’m not giving away any more because I’ll spoil it for you, but if you like shitting your pants as an adult, I recommend this one.

Visually, everything in the movie is executed perfectly. It’s somehow beautiful and horrifying at the same time. There are some great long shots of contrasting color that really drive the point home-red blood on the white nightgowns for example. Kim does a good job of keeping you scared the whole time, not only with the plot, but with what you’re looking at on the screen. The majority of the movie is shot in this creepy old dark house and half the time it’s hard to see exactly what’s happening but that’s all part of the mood. I have to say Kim borrows some of the now-iconic images from the genre like the white children’s faces half covered by black hair and the shifty, lurching movements of something dark and sinister reaching for you almost through the screen (Ju-on and Ringu), but he’s subtle and he uses that stuff sparingly-and effectively I might add. There’s a sequence where this dark, shadowy woman is slowly crawling across the room towards the girls and I really just about lost it.

I will say the movie isn’t perfect though. Now, to be fair, I’m just a stupid American, and the movie is subtitled, so something is always going to be lost in the translation, but I felt that there were things that happened that weren’t fully explained. Maybe that is the point and Kim intentionally left some things open, but I like it better when movies are all tied up and I don’t have to speculate what happened. And then there’s the all-too-real possibility that the ending was clean-cut and I’m just not as intelligent as I think I am.

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Anyway, the moral of the story is, that this beast is really very scary. It’s also an interesting psychological kind of story too.  And don’t be scared of the subtitles, after 5 minutes you don’t even notice them. If you’re not watching a foreign film because you have to read it, you’re missing out on tons of great movies, and you’re what’s wrong with this country, and I hope you get run over by a large truck.

  1. Is it scary: 9- I’ve already really explained why. Crazy suspense, awesome visuals, great camerawork, and storyline. It’s got the whole package
  2. Originality: 5- So I did a little research and found out that this movie comes from a Korean folk tale so I can’t give it big points, but I think Kim has executed the story in a clever and terrifying way.
  3. Blood: 4- Kinda bloody but not too much. That wasn’t really the point of this one though.
  4. Believability: 9- Really authentic and genuine. The acting was good and the storyline flowed logically for me.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 8- Like I’ve said before, the setting is super creepy and the way it’s shot makes it pretty and scary at the same time.

Final Score: 35/50

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