In essence, this is Brothers Grimm by way of Korea. Riffing off Ji-Woon Kim’s Changhwa, Hongryon, Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard’s script follows the murderous step-matriarchal arc of dark fairy tales while juicing it up with K-horror tics like creepy dead children and sound design that rattles the nerves. If I hinted at a twist ending, it’s hardly even a spoiler as they’ve become so tiresomely fashionable. (This one, however, makes no sense in the light of the lobby, dashing our faint goodwill.) The fear isn’t psychological; it’s merely a creaky wooden house spook show easily left behind at the theatre exit. That it’s effective at all is just a byproduct of horror film evolution—who among us wouldn’t jump when an angry corpse leaps out with a loud boom?
Still, The Uninvited isn’t terrible enough that the audience snickers the whole way through. Credit is in part due to Browning’s innocent doll face, so breakable it could bring out the paternal instinct in the crassest 13-year-old hater. But Banks—rapidly becoming Hollywood’s go-to talent after a year of standout roles in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, W., and Definitely, Maybe—turns a rote role into a damned decent performance. Her gold-digging girlfriend has a feral cat gleam in her eyes and when she tells Anna that she deserves the fine life after spending her youth “wiping old people’s asses,” we’re cowed into giving her anything she wants. If only she’d asked to put her talents to work in a movie that deserves them.