If you’re a fan of old 80’s psychological horror, The Uninvited is your trip down a cinematic memory lane. This is a well-crafted first feature by the Guard Brothers: Thomas and Charles who weave a story not as predictable as it might seem. Emily Browning plays Anna, who when we meet her is finishing a stay at a psychiatric clinic and returning home to her lively older sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel), loving father Steven played by David Strathairn and her father’s new girlfriend and, disturbingly, her mother’s former nurse, Rachael (Elizabeth Banks), who is all sunshine and false friendliness.
Anna has few memories of that night- the night when her ailing mother died in a fire, leading to the teen’s 10-month stay in a psychiatric ward. But she’s still haunted by apparitions that seem to reveal Rachael may very well have a darker side. When a neighbour boy (Jesse Moss) shows up and claims to be a witness to the events of that night, The Uninvited becomes even more uncomfortable. It’s more chilling than horrifying, more suspenseful than outright terrifying.
The Uninvited gets under your skin; the cinematography has that classy-horror-movie look with shots of a lonely car driving through ominous trees, the interiors sometimes shadowed, sometime uncannily sunny, and the presences that are half-seen in a half-sleep. The movie begins with a classically Freudian situation, moves directly into dream analysis, has blood coming from keyholes and corpses speaking from the grave, and is all set, of course, in a huge, rambling New England shore house with gables, attics, long corridors and places where anyone, or anything, could be hiding. When a movie like this has done well, it’s uncommon and The Uninvited has done well.
Far from perfect, the movie is still much more satisfying than one might expect. Behind the inventive and intelligent direction of the Guard Brothers and a strong cast, The Uninvited is, well, surprisingly inviting.