I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an old man trapped in a 21-year old’s body—and my taste in movies reflects this to a startling degree. I can tell you all about the stunning Universal horror films of the 1930s, or why Stanley Kubrick’s early years are his most underrated, but I won’t be much help if you want hype popular contemporary Hollywood.
You can imagine my delight when I discoveredThe Uninvited—a spooky ghost story from the 1940s. The crux of the story is this: a brother and sister stumble across a dilapidated mansion on the coast of Cornwall and impulsively decide to buy it. An unspoken element to the horror is that the two are prone to making deeply irrational investment decisions. They purchase the house for a suspiciously low price and immediately move in, only to discover that the house harbours a dark secret.
Even the most devoted film buffs may not have seen, The Uninvited, and I had personally never heard of it until recently. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Martin Scorsese once hailed it as one of the scariest films ever made. Ever made, you say? That’s a high bar. But if Scorsese—the acclaimed director of Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and Raging Bull—is willing to lavish this relatively unknown movie with such high praise, it must be worth our time.
Here’s the thing: the definition of ‘scary’ has undergone some radical reinterpretations over the years, and I doubt modern day audiences would scream or faint at this film the way they once did. There are no zombies, jump scares or knife-wielding dolls. In fact, the few supernatural spectres that do flicker across the screen look like little more than camera smudges.
But The Uninvited relies on something much more effective: suspense. Watching Ray Milland creep around an empty house in the middle of the night, trying to locate the sound of a disembodied voice crying in the darkness, genuinely had me gripping the edge of my seat. It keeps you on your toes. You’re always expecting something to leap out of the shadows, and this is what makes the film so successful. The suggestion of a monster lurking around the corner, even if we don’t see it, is often more terrifying than the monster itself.
If your idea of a horror film is buckets of gore and the occasional masked murderer jumping out of a closet, the world is your oyster. A quick browse through Netflix or Shudder will churn out dozens of options, as will a stroll through any post-COVID HMV. The current definition of ‘scary’ leaves nothing to the imagination and, to many, that’s the way a horror film should be. But if you believe the suspense of waiting in line for a rollercoaster is often more terrifying than the rollercoaster itself, you should give The Uninvited a shot.
Words by Dan Pearson
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