Part of the problem with the sudden explosion of Asian film into the North American indie market is that we tend to expect every film to be the next “Ringu” or “Ichi the Killer”. This is unfortunate because people end up missing a whole range of quieter, but not unbrutal films. “The Uninvited” is one of these films.
Jeong-won (Shin-yang Park) is a successful architect with a beautiful and talented fiance and a loving father and sister. While riding the subway home one night two little girls get on, one right next to him and one across from him. Upon getting off the subway at the last stop he notices that the girls are still on the train, asleep like he was. Not thinking too much of it he leaves the train and proceeds to go about his day. Later, we learn that the two girls were murdered, poisoned by their own mother. Plagued by the image of the two girls Jeong-won starts to see them in his dreams, and when he’s not sleeping too.
Unable to tell his fiance, he flees to his father’s church in Ilsong. However, that too offers little solace and he begins to find himself drawn to a fragile narcoleptic woman (Jin-hyun Jun). Together they try to unravel their painful pasts and the visions which continue to haunt them.
While lacking the innate sense of dread of other contemporary Asian ghost stories (“Tale of Two Sisters”, “Ju-on”), “The Uninvited” still contains its share of horrific moments, particularly when it comes to children. It’s a story about faith, represented alternately by the Church and adult responsibility, or the unknown supernatural. The fear is derived from sadness and ones own feelings of inadequacy. Jeong-won is haunted by a lost childhood and unsure of his impending marital commitment. The woman, Yeon, is haunted by the death of her child and her failings as a friend, mother and wife.
A deceptively simple film, “The Uninvited” does play a little long, teasing at subplots that ultimately lead nowhere story wise, but instead serve to add weight to the burdens that Yeon and Jeong-won feel they must carry. Beautiful cinematography and a blue-grey colour scheme add to feeling of isolation invoked by the rows of Korean high-rises.
A horror film where the horror is emotional, “The Uninvited” is another quiet marker of the current Korean film renaissance.