Judge Gordon Sullivan has visions. He's seeing an optometrist.
Our reviews of The Uninvited (1944) (Region 2) (published October 30th, 2012), The Uninvited (2003) (published July 20th, 2006), The Uninvited (2009) (published May 1st, 2009), and The Uninvited (2009) (Blu-ray) (published May 1st, 2009) are also available.
Don't Turn Around
Depending on how you count, there are approximately a quarter of a million words currently in regular usage according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Despite this fact, filmmakers who go for one-word titles continue to return to the same words over and over again. For instance, The Uninvited currently returns fourteen different titles at the Internet Movie Database. Most significant are the Ray Milland fright flick from 1944, followed by the American remake of the Korean A Tale of Two Sisters. Eventually, the list includes 2008's The Uninvited by Bob Badway. I can't really begrudge him the title since it's so evocative, but the fact that it's been recycled for so many films speaks volumes about the kind of material The Uninvited is working with. A strong visual sense and a good central performance can't overcome the fact that The Uninvited doesn't have a coherent story.
Lee (Marguerite Moreau, Wet Hot American Summer) had a problem. When she was young, she saw an apparition, and that triggered a phobia. From then on, Lee couldn't stand to be farther than a few inches from objects. She had to go around her house hugging the wall, and trips outside were almost out of the question. During her therapeutic recovery, a documentary was made about her condition by Nick (Colin Hay of the band Men at Work) that won numerous awards. Now, it's a few years later and the pair is married, living in a remote historical home. When Nick goes out on a shoot to help solve their money problems, Lee begins having visions and her phobia returns. As the night wears on, secrets about her home and her husband will be revealed as she struggles with her illness.
If atmosphere and acting were enough to make a movie, then The Uninvited would be top-notch. Aside from a few obnoxious visual flourishes, director Bob Badway effectively sets up the look of the film to suggest both openness and claustrophobia. Using the documentary format to introduce Lee's illness was a bold and brilliant stroke that effectively sets up an interesting condition (which might be the best excuse for the "stuck in the house horror" ever) and plays with the film's differing levels of reality. Marguerite Moreau as Lee was also a strong choice. She undergoes an almost complete physical transformation depending on whether her character is suffering from her phobia or not. When phobic she is slump-shouldered and shifty eyed, always leaning or near a wall or other surface. When "cured," she is confident and open, and it's almost difficult to tell she's the same actress.
Sadly, atmosphere and acting aren't quite enough to make the film worth watching. The Uninvited's first problem is that it's slow. The first half hour is almost exclusively Nick and Lee. Although the documentary footage effectively sets up Lee's condition, the rest of that first third is spent on weird dream/flashback hybrids that are more confusing than creepy. When the film finally revs up about halfway through, there are some really great scenes of creep. However, they slowly lose their appeal as we wait for the explanation behind whatever is menacing Lee. As the explanation slowly unfolds it makes less and less sense, and the references to Rosemary's Baby on the cover should tell prospective viewers pretty much everything they need to know. The pieces of a decent fright flick are there, even with the hokey satanic stuff, but the storytelling just isn't there.
The Uninvited gets a decent treatment on DVD. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer seems to uphold directorial intent. A muted color scheme is effectively reproduced, and although the film's lower budget is evident in places, there's no excessive grain or compression artifacts to mar the picture. The surround audio does an fine job with audio, and there's not hiss or distortion present. Surround get a decent workout during some of Lee's phobic moments, and the music cues sound clear and distinct. The film's lone extra is a commentary with director Bob Badway and producer Michael Emanuel. The two discuss the film's genesis and production, including some changes that got made in the editing room to the film. The disc also includes the film's trailer.
The Uninvited shows tremendous potential, but doesn't quite hang together as an effective horror film. The acting and directing are there, but the story doesn't support those valiant efforts. Although the DVD is solid enough, the film is only worth a rental to those into haunted house or Satanic flicks.
The Uninvited is probably not welcome. Guilty.
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