THE UNINVITED (Charles Guard, Thomas Guard). 87 minutes. Opens Friday (January 30). Rating: NNN
Remakes of Asian horror hits don't have the same creepy cachet they did back when the stringy-haired wraith-girl pulled a reverse Carol Anne Freeling by crawling out of the TV in 2002's The Ring. But the genre gets a welcome little jolt with The Uninvited, which adheres pretty closely to the original, a South Korean chiller called Janghwa, Hongryeon (aka A Tale Of Two Sisters).
Anna (Emily Browning) has just been released from a psychiatric facility where she was treated following a suicide attempt in the wake of her sick mother's death in a fire. Back home, she discovers her father (David Strathairn) has become romantically involved with her mother's former nurse, Rachael (Elizabeth Banks in a decidedly non-comedic role). Feeling betrayed, and a little frightened, Anna seeks comfort from her older sister, Alex (Arielle Kebbel), who's strangely cold and distant.
While Rachael works to remove all traces of Anna's mother from their lives, Anna begins having nightmarish visions of her dead mother, who seems to be trying to tell her that her death was no accident.
The original was spookier and just plain weirder, playing more deeply on the themes of alienation and repression (both emotional and sexual).
Still, The Uninvited, with its first-rate performances and strong direction, does offer a few genuine chills and surprising scares in what has essentially become a haunted house/wicked stepmother story (and, no, that's not giving anything away).