The Uninvited and A Tale of Two Sisters

May 12, 2009

Yesterday I went to see The Uninvited. I had not intended to, having seen the trailers and thought it looked generic, confused and full of what seemed to be under aged girls in bikinis. However, there’s was basically nothing else on and I’d seen the two main blockbusters that are out at the moment, so it seemed like a trashy way to spend an afternoon. I could only hope that it would be so bad that it would be funny. However, it turned out that the film was only capable of inducing sigh after sigh as the script missed with every line and the horrific elements of the film were reduced to loud noises and silly makeup. All of my fears which festered after I’d seen the trailers were justified. The film was even made so that it would reach the PG-13 audience in America, but received a 15 rating in the UK which is more for the loud noises and freaky kids than it is for the blood, violence or language.

So all in all a very disappointing cinema trip. On arriving home full of bile I thought I’d check online to see why the film was so poor, and lo and behold it’s an Americanised remake of an Asian horror film, expressly chosen as the pet project of the producers of the American version of Ringu. This time the source material is the Korean film A Tale Of Two Sisters which was released in 2003 and which I’ve now acquired a copy of. Having only watched the first five minutes I’m already convinced that the original is far superior, which is a statement I hope to qualify below.

The opening of The Uninvited sees a young couple kissing passionately at a beach party. The boy tells the girl that he loves her and that he has a condom, at which point she gets up and walks away from him, through dark woods. Suddenly a voice over kicks in, narrating exactly the actions which we are seeing on screen from the girl’s point of view. She finds refuse sacks filled with body parts in the woods and runs on homewards where the atmosphere is decidedly gothic and her terminally ill mother lurks in the boat house with a bell around her wrist to call for help. Throughout this sequence the girl continues to narrate her actions until an explosion consumes the boathouse and the film cuts to reveal that a pale, pretty young girl has been telling this tale of a recurring nightmare to a psychologist in a mental facility. She looks confused but comfortable, and the psychologist tells her that in his opinion she is ready to go home, to which she reacts with glee. This contrived opening with the unnecessary narration brings in the horrific elements brashly and yet at the expense of the film’s impact.

A Tale of Two Sisters on the other hand takes a subtle, distinctly Asian approach to representing the same opening. After the opening credits have rolled the first shot shows a bowl of clear water. After a few moments of inactivity, two hands enter from the top of the screen and wash themselves in the bowl. We do not see whose hands they are immediately, but it is unimportant yet effectively artistic film making. The second shot is medium long, depicting a doctor of some kind who we realise is the hand washer. He stands on the left of the screen, parallel to a table and two metal chairs facing each other. He looks into the space off screen to the right, goes over to the chair and dries his hands on a towel which hangs from the back. A nurse leads in a stooped, androgynous figure from the right who takes a seat opposite the doctor at the table. Hair hides the downturned face of the newcomer, and the doctor begins to coax the patient into talking about what happened ‘that day’. As the doctor finishes talking the patient raises their head to reveal the feminine curve of a young jawline protruding from the mane of sleek black hair, looking up and to the right side as might indicate a flashback in a Hollywood picture.

All of this conveys powerfully and with verbal economy much about the feel and themes of the film. Memory, incarceration and mental instability are brought in, as are elements of a fear of the medical and an association with illness that certainly ran throughout The Uninvited. The style and narration of A Tale of Two Sisters is far more satisfying than the remake and of course far more original, and assumes that the viewer has some level of intelligence and would like to do their own investigating and interrogating during the film rather than have everything spelt out for them or cheaply and poorly hidden.

My main problem with the American remakes is that they spoil the impact of the original for unaware viewers like myself who might have really enjoyed the first film had the twists and turns of the plot not been revealed clumsily by Hollywood. On the Wikipedia page about The Uninvited, Elizabeth Banks, who plays the new girlfriend of the recently widowed father, is quoted as saying that she had to deliver every line so that it would have the intended duality of interpretation required of the role. However, this just means that she spends much of the film expressionless and cold, leaving the viewer wondering what the father sees in her. Because of the acutely subjective nature of the narrative the viewer feels betrayed in the final revelations because the conditions of the film’s plot mean that it may as well have ‘all been a dream’. This is not handled well in The Uninvited, and when A Tale of Two Sisters has been subjected to a thorough going over I’ll give my opinions.


2 Responses to “The Uninvited and A Tale of Two Sisters”

  1. […] (save going to see the brilliant In The Loop one more time) probably reflects poorly on me, but The Uninvited and now Angels and Demons have not created lasting impressions. In fact, Ron Howard’s film […]

  2. […] if not entirely original. As a point of comparison it’s about a million times better than The Uninvited, and if you like it you should check out low budget British schlock-horror The Children for more […]

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