I’m surprised we don’t see more of Emily Browning, the talented and attractive young actress who played Violet, the elder sister in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (reviewed here). In this film she stars as a teenager who has spent months in a mental hospital undergoing treatment for emotional trauma resulting from the death of her bedridden mother in a horrific fire.
Back home she’s reunited with her loving but somewhat distant father (David Strathairn) and her older sister and closest friend (Arielle Kebbel). But they’re not alone. The attractive young nurse (Elizabeth Banks) who had cared for her mother turns out to be still in residence, having become the father’s girlfriend.
Both sisters consider her an intruder and resent her changes to the house and her efforts to keep the younger sister away from her boyfriend. Gradually the resentment grows into suspicion and then fear.
In the meantime the younger sister sees, or perhaps hallucinates, ghosts, but while the ghosts are frightening, they’re not the menace.
This is a genuinely well-done mystery-suspense film loosely based on a popular 2003 Korean original known in the U.S. as A Tale of Two Sisters. There’s more emotional depth here than you might expect and less in the way of horror movie scares (though the ghost scenes are quite spooky). It’s also intense and troubling, so much so that I found it hard to watch. It’s definitely not the movie to see if you need cheering up.