A strange thing happened to me whilst watching The Uninvited. On three separate occasions I found myself falling asleep during the course of the movie. Not a unique occurrence I’m sure you’ll agree, it has after all been a very long week, but not the most positive of endorsements either. The interesting thing is, one of the lead characters in the film suffers from narcolepsy. Coincidence or curse? You decide.
The Uninvited is a 2003 Korean horror/drama directed by Lee Su-yeon, not to be confused with the 2009 Hollywood remake of A Tale Of Two Sisters, also entitled The Uninvited. This particular unwelcome guest stars Jeon Ji-hyun (My Sassy Girl) and Park Shin-yang (The Big Swindle), telling the tale of an interior decorator that witnesses the death of two children on a subway journey home.
Jung-Won is not a well man. His wedding is fast approaching and like any unsuspecting guy just about ready to take the plunge, he is suffering from inexplicable anxiety and sleepless nights. One evening Jung-Won falls asleep on the subway home, almost missing his stop. As he comes round he sees two young girls asleep on the seat next to him. In his haste to get off the train he pays little attention to the fact that they are alone.
Things get worse when he arrives home to find his wife-to-be has been flicking through the Ikea catalogue again, bringing home an unusual metal dining table, and probably some cushions too. At work the next day, whilst renovating a psychiatrist's office, he hears a news item on the radio about two young girls found poisoned on a subway train. Falling debris from the ceiling intervenes, and after a trip to the local hospital he returns home to find the two dead girls sat at his shiny new table. That’s when things start to get really weird.
On paper The Uninvited reads like any other Asian ghost story, but Lee Su-yeon isn’t interested in tried and tested formula. He presents us with a perplexing drama that focuses on unravelling the human psyche. There are elements of horror waiting to be discovered, but they aren’t presented to us in the traditional way, both a blessing and a curse depending on what you’re hoping to take with you from this experience. The opening act is promising; Lee Su-yeon manages to create visual unease in every frame. The flashes of terror - coupled with a restrained musical score - sets the tone of the movie perfectly.
Events take a turn in the second act as we're introduced to an array of human casualties in a courtroom drama that stumbles from time to time. Jeon Ji-hyun plays Yeon, a witness in an infant murder case who finds it hard to stay awake. She can also see dead people, and when Jung-Won finds out she’s psychic he thinks she might be able to help him recover his lost childhood memories. Is it just me or does this feel like a completely different movie to the one we started with?
The Uninvited is no longer concerned with scaring the viewer. At least, not in the traditional sense. It’s pretty obvious that Jung-Won will be discovering misery and torment in his past (the movie title hardly suggests hugs and puppies) but The Uninvited piles on the torment in a gloomy and somewhat depressing manner. Great if you’re in the mood. Long winded, confusing and soul destroying if you’re not. Visually striking scenes of human devastation await those willing to take the ride, but be warned, they are hidden within a world of confusion and muddled storytelling. It’s hard to tell what’s real inside the twisted mind of our troubled protagonist, but for me it was even harder to care.
The Uninvited is frustrating. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I missed something. Maybe I fell asleep again. Whatever the reason, The Uninvited remains an uneven movie going experience that struggles to find the right balance between drama and horror. The silver lining being that in all the confusion and restlessness, I did manage to pick out a matching set of cushions for my sofa. An Ikea catalogue sure lifts the spirits in times of despair and disillusionment. Like I said, it’s been a very long week. AW