The Uninvited (2003) Movie Review

“The Uninvited”, the latest horror film out of South Korea, opens strong, with interior designer Jung-won (Shin-yang Park) being inexplicably haunted by two dead girls he saw in the subway. Forty minutes later, it’s revealed that a troubled woman name Yun (Ji-hyun Jun) can see the dead girls too because, as it turns out, she’s a sort of spiritual medium. But what does the dead girls have to do with Yun? Or with Jung-won? For that matter, why does Jung-won’s father keep mentioning his new church and why does Jung-won’s fianc’e Hee-Eun seem to have something going on with Jung-won’s co-worker?

If it sounds as if “The Uninvited” baffles, it doesn’t. The movie is convoluted to the point of being superfluous, even though it’s over two hours long, which would seem like enough running time to work out all the various plots and subplots that keeps cropping up. But it seems that writer/director Su-yeon Lee is determined to leave us hanging. “Uninvited” spends a large amount of time nursing various angles, but never seems to find them sufficiently intriguing enough to follow through, much less provide resolutions for. By the end of the movie you’ll be wondering what happened to about half a dozen plotlines that were introduced earlier in the film only to unceremoniously disappear.

In short, “The Uninvited” is a long and drawn out bore. What it spends 40 minutes doing could have been done in 20 minutes or less. By the time it’s revealed that Yun can see the two dead children in Jung-won’s apartment, 40 minutes have already been wasted. By the time it becomes obvious that the two dead children have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie, the credits are rolling. Without belaboring the point too much, more than half of “Uninvited” is dead air. Worst, they’re tedious and boring dead air, which is doubly bad.

Two years after her breakthrough role in “My Sassy Girl”, Ji-hyun Jun turns in a pedestrian show as the eternally depressed Yun Jung. It should be said that the role is atypical of Asian horror films, in particular the Ghost Stories, and is by no means demanding. The female leads in these films are required to do basically three things: be docile to the point of looking lifeless, sit or stand at one location staring off at empty spaces for long stretches, and move really, really slowly. Ji-hyun Jun does all these things really well, but it still goes without saying that anyone could have played this role.

But perhaps Jun isn’t so bad compared to leading man Shin-yang Park (“Hi, Dharma”), whose character is so ineffectual as to seem mildly retarded. The tongue tied Jung-won spends about an hour of the audience’s time being incapable of spitting out a couple of sentences that would have propelled the story forward. Instead, the insufferably wimpy Jung-won runs around like a chicken with his head cut off, barely able to express his feelings or find the most basic methods to convey what he wants to various characters. The worst part is that this guy is supposed to be an interior designer. You know, I thought interior designers needed to be able to at least string two coherent sentences together, but I guess not.

If there’s one thing to admire “Uninvited” for it’s the slick camerawork by Lee and cinematographer Yeong-gyu Jo. There are also some effective uses of nonlinear storytelling devices, but alas there are not enough of them to keep us interested in-between the lengthy dead spots that litter the film like minefields. Visually speaking, “Uninvited” isn’t quite as stunning as your average South Korean film, but it does have its moments. There isn’t a lot of gore to be found, even though more than one character plummets to their death from the roof of buildings. Although the film does make great use of in-your-face death scenes, including one where a young boy is run over by a truck, and you can see every second of it about to happen.

Then again these few moments are the only things to hang one’s hat on. “Uninvited” has some good ideas and about a dozen other ideas that it never bothers to follow up on, which makes one wonder why they were even brought up in the first place. The film is padded out with too many bland sequences that goes absolutely nowhere, and the leads aren’t anyone you could identify with. Jung-won is a bumbling nitwit and Yun Jung is such a generic Asian Ghost Story female lead as to be, well, wholly generic. Following these two for two pointless hours doesn’t exactly make for a stimulating evening.

There’s a saying in filmmaking that goes, “You have to learn to kill your babies.” This means a film should be edited again and again until the proper pacing is achieved, even if it means cutting out all of one’s favorite scenes — if they don’t make the film better, they must go. Thus, directors must learn to “kill their babies”. Director Su-yeon Lee should have taken a scalpel to his script before committing it to film.

Su-yeon Lee (director) / Su-yeon Lee (screenplay)
CAST: Shin-yang Park …. Jung-won
Ji-hyun Jun …. Yun Jung

Buy The Uninvited on DVD