Eye of the Beholder

***SPOILERS***

The Uninvited is a 2009 remake of the South Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters.  In this film, a girl (Emily Browning) is released from a psychiatric facility following the trauma of the death of her mother in an explosion.  She finds that her father (David Straithairn) has quickly moved on, and is set to marry her mother’s nurse (Elizabeth Banks).  Her sister has been forgotten in the whirlwind romance, and the two form a fast allegiance against her.  The more they interact with her, the more it becomes apparent that she is not exactly what she seems.

     The manipulative female is a plot device that has been used again and again.  What I find interesting is how little credit it gives the males in these types of stories.

     In the case of The Uninvited, the girls uncover a plot in which her father’s new wife is actually a murderous, money-seeking wife killer who plotted to murder her mother and take her place.  The problem?  Her sources are supernatural, making them not exactly credible to anyone else.  Her father is oblivious, living in a sex haze.  On top of that, while he loves his new girlfriend, he still carries some guilt from the fact that he was having an affair with her in the same house that his wife was dying of cancer in.  As she trots around the house in skimpy workout wear, dad is ignoring the fact that his daughter is distraught, chalking it up to adjusting.  Because of her history of mental illness, her concerns are ignored, written off as figments of her imagination.

     What makes this movie different than the average tale of the gold-digging murderess is the ending, where it is shown that this is actually true.  When viewed through this lens, looking back, suddenly Rachel is a woman who is struggling to keep a new family together.  Her husband has been as much help to her as he has to his daughter.  He is pretending that everything is hunky dory, that everything will go back to normal after they all adjust, and that they should just be patient.  There is no forcing these types of things, I know, but he is very laid back about all of this, as if he knows he can’t make both of them happy so he should just let it ride.

     While this film has been largely panned, I found it very interesting how it plays with the concept of a new member of the family who turns out to be manipulative.  Rachel is beautiful, and uses her beauty to get what she wants.  The audience is not meant to see past that.  In most films that use this trope, that is all that we see of this character in order to preserve her innate evil.  No other aspect of her personality matters other than what she looks like on the outside.  Some might argue that it is showing that true beauty is on the inside, but I think that it also unintentionally suggests that beautiful women can only uses their looks and their bodies to get ahead in life.  In the case of The Uninvited, we are told that there is more to the story than a beautiful woman trying to get her way.

     This movie demands a re-watch if only to see how the change in perception once you realize that Anna’s delusions are colouring the audiences perception of Rachel.  You actually start to feel a bit sorry for Rachel, who is not the perfect stepmom by any means, but definitely did not deserve what happened to her.  A movie that tips the view of the manipulative woman on its head, this is a great psychological horror movie that shows that just like beauty, reality is in the eye of the beholder.

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