If you want flashy pyrotechnics and gore, proceed straight to "The Amityville Horror" movies. But if you yearn for a classy ghost film with some old-fashioned storytelling magic, turn to "The Uninvited."
Unlike so many modern-day haunted-house films, this 1944 entry endures primarily because of its keen sense of subtlety, mystery and suspense.
It doesn't even matter that the ghosts in "The Uninvited" are rarely seen. The film is so deftly crafted that their implied presence is enough to draw the viewer into this work's spooky milieu. Doors slamming shut by themselves, candles flickering ominously on a shadowy staircase and the late-night moans of a tortured spirit are some of the elements that help paint a mysterious, spine-tingling atmosphere.
Windward is the name of the haunted house in a chilly coastal section of western England. When music critic Roderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) stumble upon the vacant mansion, they see only a lovely old house in an appealingly out-of-the-way location. At the behest of Pamela, Roderick buys the estate for the two of them at a bargain price.
The mansion's previous owner, an old military commander, does give the new buyers a hint of Windward's troubled history: The commander's daughter once lived there with her husband and infant daughter before falling fatally off a nearby cliff.
After Roderick and Pamela encounter eerie and unexplained happenings, they embark on a desperate search to uncover the true identities and motives of the ghosts haunting Windward.
"The Uninvited" is really as much a seductive mystery as it is a bone-chilling story of the supernatural. Director Lewis Allen tantalizingly unravels the surprising events that lead to the spiritual unrest at Windward.
"The Uninvited" (1944), directed by Lewis Allen. 98 minutes. Not rated.