Elizabeth Banks, 'The Uninvited'

Flat, obvious and doesn't begin to approach the creepiness of the 2003 South Korean original.

Weak even by the standard of uninspired recent Asian-horror remakes, “The Uninvited” is more likely to induce snickers and yawns than shudders and yelps. Inauspicious feature debut for co-helmers Charles and Thomas Guard — billed as “the Guard Brothers,” though the brothers Coen, Wachowski and Polish needn’t lose any sleep over the new sibs in town — is a flat, obvious effort that doesn’t begin to approach the creepiness of the 2003 South Korean original “A Tale of Two Sisters.” Genre’s current robust health will make this a decent but fast-fading B.O. starter, with easy ancillary profits following.

Institutionalized after a suicide attempt in the wake of her already ill mother’s death in an accidental fire, teen Anna (Emily Browning) is released to re-join author dad Steven (David Strathairn) and bad-girl sis Alex (Arielle Kebbel) at their rather lavish, gated oceanside manse. There’s a less welcome “family” member present, too, at least as far as the daughters are concerned: Rachel (Elizabeth Banks), mom’s erstwhile private nurse, now middle-age-crazy Steven’s sexy live-in girlfriend.

Both sisters are already discomfited enough by this smiling usurper when Anna starts experiencing warning visions — including one in which their dead ma none too subtly points at Rachel and exhales, “Murderer!” A little Internet research suggests Rachel isn’t who she claims to be. Then Anna’s ex-boyfriend (Jesse Moss), who saw what really happened the night mom died, turns up dead before he can share that knowledge.

There’s a major twist in the last reel. But while it might have had rug-pulling impact on viewers in a better movie, the pic’s lack of any preceding credibility or nuance renders said development as ineffectual as everything else.

Almost half an hour shorter and a whole lot blunter than Kim Jee-woon’s original, “The Uninvited” — a title with no particular relevance — is clumsily written (by Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard) and even more gracelessly directed. A hopefully well-paid Strathairn is wasted. Banks, having proven onscreen versatility in multiple pics over the past year, suggests here she’d make a fine “Fatal Attraction”-style villainess in a less moronic vehicle. Younger leads don’t flatter themselves, but then, the brothers Guard don’t do much to help them out.

Feature is rotely polished but lacks any sense of style or atmosphere, attractive British Columbia locations aside. Tech/design contributions are generic.

The Uninvited

Production

A DreamWorks Pictures release and presentation, in association with Cold Spring Pictures, of a Parkes/MacDonald and Montecito Picture Co./Vertigo Entertainment production. Produced by Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald and Roy Lee. Executive producers, Michael Grillo, Doug Davison, Ivan Reitman, Tom Pollock. Co-producers, Riyoko Tanaka, Casey Grant. Directed by the Guard Brothers. Screenplay, Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard, based on the motion picture "A Tale of Two Sisters" written by Kim Jee-woon.

Crew

Camera (color), Daniel Landin; editors, Christian Wagner, Jim Page; music, Christopher Young; production designer, Andrew Menzies; costume designer, Trish Keating; art director, Margot Ready; set decorator, Dominique Fauquet-Lemaitre; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS), Rob Young, Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell; assistant director, Jim Brebner; casting, Debra Zane. Reviewed at Sony Metreon, San Francisco, Jan. 27, 2009. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Emily Browning, Elizabeth Banks, Arielle Kebbel, David Strathairn, Maya Massar, Kevin McNulty, Jesse Moss, Dean Paul Gibson.

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