The Uninvited (1944)
From the Most Popular Mystery Romance since "Rebecca"!
Get ready to travel into cinema's past again with me! Come now, it's a fantastic journey to a time when color was shades of black and white, the over-use of all things CG was unimaginable, movie posters were still something of an art. Not to lose out on the October-ly spirit however, this haunting journey back is a bit of a ghost tale. Do you believe in haunted houses, or will it prove to be an uninvited guest?
A pair of Londoner siblings is out for a vacation out in the less populated and busy countryside, and stumble across a stunning old house that looks as though it could use a little fixing up. Their dog catches wind of a squirrel, and a chase ensues with the squirrel doing it's best Speed Racer impression as the dog rides hot on it's heels through an open window. The siblings follow their furry little companion in, assuming (quite accurately) from the state of the house it hasn't been occupied for some time, in an effort to save the squirrel from their dog (or jokingly the other way around). After the squirrel escapes up the chimney, with the dog patiently waiting for it to come back down, they decide to look around the rest of the fabulous looking house. Although one room seems uncharacteristically gloomy and cold, the views are gorgeous and the house holds a lot of potential, and the sister convinces the brother that they should sink all their money into purchasing and moving in to it, abandoning the busy streets of London for this sea-side mansion.
It's upon talking to the current owner that things first start getting a little weird. The man's granddaughter is absolutely adamant about the house not being for sale, but before the siblings can leave the man returns home and they strike up a conversation about the sale. It's decided that even for such a low price the house will be sold to them, but the man wants them to know that the last tenants to live there complained of odd happenings and ended up leaving. Being a sensible modern man of science, the brother doesn't believe in ghosts and declares that it's no problem at all (after first hoping to try and haggle the price down a little bit more). The siblings return to the house to look around before the brother heads back to London to send over their furniture and finish up some work, and notice the man's granddaughter outside staring sadly at the house. Before leaving, the brother buys some smokes and gets to hear more of the rumors surrounding the house from the store keep, and ends up running into the now apologetic granddaughter - where the seeds of romance are planted along a boat ride before his trip.
Upon returning, the brother finds that the granddaughter hasn't visited at all although she expressed such interest in going to the house and keeping his sister company. It's but the first oddity when he's awoken deep in the night by the sounds of a woman crying, to which his sister explains there is no use searching the house for this disembodied sorrow, as it's happened off and on for some time and will be gone at dawn. When the brother finally manages to sneak the granddaughter over to visit while her grandfather is away, things get even spookier when she seemingly possessed runs for the cliff in which her mother jumped off so many years ago - only to be saved at the last minute by the brother. Things are going on in this house, and it's closely getting to the point where the siblings want to get to the bottom of it. Is it the ghost of the granddaughter's mother haunting the place, or something far more evil?
The movie is an from an older time - which if you've read any of my other reviews you already know has never bothered me in the slightest - and in turn is a black and white film. This could certainly be a turn off to some of the more modern-minded folks who are attracted only to the shiniest of gems, but to skip it solely for that would be to miss out on a rather valuable experience. Sets - despite mostly just being homes and a few roadsides - tend to offer quite the view, both out the windows towards the sea and inside the lovely haunted residence. Costume work is all period, but one can't help but marvel at the amount of class that comes out of the attire from back then - it certainly beats wife beaters and micro-skirts. One would expect the age to negatively impact effects work, but what effects do exist are executed wonderfully - particularly the ghostly apparitions. Driving scenes certainly look a bit rear-projected, but this is nothing new to someone who's seen their share of older movies.
Acting here is pretty well done as well. It's not that new-to-audio level of over exaggerated motions from the cast, and comes off as pretty believable if not a bit whimsical at times - but most likely that's part of the romance movie bleeding through. The romance in here might not win any records for being a tear-jerker, but it does flow incredibly well with giving a plot purpose to the brother wanting to solve the mystery of the house instead of just pulling stakes and leaving. Mystery-wise, it plants all the seeds of expectations and doubts at well timed moments throughout, although apt mystery-minded folks will certainly figure out the twist before the ending reveal is upon them. Still, it's nice to have a haunting that's played out less like a Halloween Horror Nights maze and more of a supernatural murder-mystery instead.
Audio here never really distracts. Of course, the opening plate theme is of the piano variety, and crops up later on in the movie proper itself, but it's a finely done piano piece at that - albeit I'm no Bethoven. Actors voices are never hard to hear, and the audio levels are pretty finely balanced so that you are never going deaf from sudden blaring noises. Some snazzy lines crop up, as do a few jokes, and it's mostly all light-hearted fun. This isn't to say that when things start heating up we don't worry at least a little bit about those in the house, and certainly just how scary the events are have probably lost a lot over time - but at no times do I feel as though this movie was genuinely meant to make me fear for my life and scar me for life.
I'd say that this is certainly worth a watch for those who can enjoy older movies. Of course, I have to say that ("enjoy older movies") because I know there is a subset of the grand masses that hate aged things for some bizarre reason. That being said, it's a generally happy movie with a decent mystery and a fun "spooky" supernatural theme. Effects are appealing, acting is good, and overall the movie is just an enjoyable experience. Check it out if you haven't already, I'm relatively sure you won't regret it.