Though it might have been slightly shocking with its fair share of scares upon its release in 1944, The Uninvited has lost some of that impact with the passage of time though it is no less an engaging movie because of it. That is in large part due to the performances of its stars in Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Gail Russell and Donald Crisp, a group of actors and actresses who raise the material up above what it might have been otherwise with a less talented cast.
The story is a familiar one as Roderick and Pamela Fitzgerald, brother and sister, come upon a boarded-up house upon the beach and having made their way inside thanks to their dog and an errant squirrel, find that they have fallen in love with the place and want to buy it. Contacting the owner, they find the man all-to-willing to sell despite the protestations of his granddaughter and at quite the bargain as well. They are told of a past incident at the house, of noises and so forth that people had heard but it is inconsequential as the Fitzgeralds really want the house. It is not long before the pair start to hear noises themselves in the house, a woman crying and so forth with Roderick starting to court young Stella as well whose mother had died in the house seventeen years previous. So it is that director Lewis Allen uses a deft touch and weaving in the past through the present, he brings forth what was buried, of drama and murder and secrets long thought forgotten.
There is something to be said for films such as this as those who made them make it very easy for the audience to escape into them, to be a part of that world on the big screen and imagine themselves at the center of it all. Here the melodrama is heavy and thick but never overpowering and the fright one is supposed to feel at the sight and sound of the ghosts is dulled due to the actions of a couple of the characters, namely Commander Beech and Miss Holloway. The real horror comes from these two, through past and current actions and how they treat Stella throughout all of this. It all plays out more like a mystery and it is not so much a good one as it is a compelling one, simply for the fact that the talent from the director on down makes it as such. When one also factors in that Roderick and Pamela were never overly scared themselves of the ghosts, merely concerned with where the sounds were coming from and how they might get rid of them, it lessens the impact of those haunted spirits. The story and the drama and the mystery were great but a little more effort at making the picture a scary one might have been for the better.
As far as ghost stories go, The Uninvited is not the most exciting movie nor is it a film that will frighten one overly much but it will ensorcel those who choose to take a chance on it, Milland and Russell doing more than a fine job as they try to get to the bottom of all that has been hidden over the years.
3.5 out of 5