One of the most important elements any horror film can have is atmosphere–a dominant mood, emotional tone, or environment that surrounds and envelops us as viewers, making us feel that we are a part of it all as we watch. Taking us off of our sofa, out of our home, to another place not so comfortable is key in horror. Yes! Scaring us is also important, but, without atmosphere, success can never truly be achieved. With it, fear is a simple result, achieved naturally, without effort. Uninvited (written and directed by Eleni Kounis and Daorsa Imeri) is a short film packing more atmosphere and genuine horror than most attempts in Hollywood, and certainly as much as the average movie of feature-length. With this, it sets an example to be studied as much as enjoyed.
Uninvited begins with the film’s star (Sarah Giercksky) riding an elevator up, as she looks down. Lost in thought, she is, it seems, ending another day like the day before, bored with the routine. On the fifth floor, she enters her apartment for the night, hangs her coat in the hall closet, and begins preparing dinner. Although all of this may indeed sound ordinary, everything that follows is far from it. Yes! Uninvited wastes no time making us privy to events that set its tone of terror powerfully, in subtle, objective moments. The first scare is the kind I love most–the something-down-the-hallway, in-the-dark, that may or may not have been anything…but certainly looked like something. Yes! “I know I just saw something…or did I?” The main character, checking her intuition by looking down the hallway, saw little…but we saw more. I actually watched the scene more than once, all the more creeped out each time, all the more tense that she didn’t see it too. Yes! Rarely, do I feel horror more than I did seeing that thing (something I won’t reveal here) move ever-so-slightly, but ever-so-surely in the darkness.
I love it that we, as viewers of Uninvited, see the anomalies (ghosts, demons, or whatever they are) when the main character is not looking in the right direction, or not at the right time. Since we can warn no one, we are helpless to do anything for her, but compelled as a participant, becoming characters ourselves. Identifying with familiar moments, and as witnesses, we feel just as vulnerable, just as much in danger as her. Yes! Uninvited is interactive horror at its finest…and certainly most efficient!
Efficiency, however, can have the obvious shortcomings. Short films often end in the middle of a story, with much more to be known. With this, they risk being pointless wastes of time and/or self-inflicted sources of frustration for many. Thus, the greatest indicator of success for a short film is the extent to which it makes viewers want more–a lot more! With this principle, Uninvited is, in fact, ultra-successful. Without giving too much away, I can say one thing for sure: viewers will definitely want more of the story, as much as they will want more of the atmosphere that surrounds and scares them. Wanting to know what happens to Giercksky’s character is a mystery as compelling as all else.
Speaking of Sarah Giercksky, she is no stranger to horror, also being the writer and star of Sargad (Wounded)–directed by Andres R. Ramos. Giercksky’s casual realism as an actress is just what is needed to make extraordinary events in Uninvited impact viewers with extraordinary results. With her low-key performance, we know her as a character because she is like us, making us more vulnerable, in our minds, to the horrors she is yet to discover. Relaxed and unpretentious, what Giercksky adds is not simply a performance; more so, and better yet, she adds humanness that is honest, genuine, and familiar. With this, Giercksky makes the all-important film-to-life connection easy–in a genre where such connections are not so easily made. In this way, with her, we are easily afraid…just as we should be.
Emma Sandberg plays the part of the main character’s sister and roommate. She appears suddenly, as a logical reason for the movie’s scares, admittedly looking to get even for being shown a horror movie earlier–one that gave her nightmares. Unassuming but playful, Sandberg is a perfect complement to Giercksky’s character; she adds humor, at just the right moment, to the movie’s otherwise ominous tone. Giving us reasons to doubt earlier judgement, the sister makes everyone more vulnerable–the main character, because she dismisses suspicions; us, because we second guess ourselves. “Did I really see what I thought I saw?” we wonder. “Was it all really just a prank?”
Speaking of second guessing, I also highly recommend watching Uninvited a certain way–a natural way, carefully, without using the reverse button on your remote–at least the first time. (Yes! You can always go back and doublecheck later.) Watch it as you would see it if it really happened, unable to go back and see it again, unable to verify what you saw. For a genuine interactive experience, all the creepier, it’s the only way to go!
Further praise must be given to numerous candle-lit scenes which, as screenshots, are pictures worth framing, if not worth displaying in an art gallery. Yes! Stills from a movie becoming art are no coincidence; they are the result of careful, studied directing and cinematography. A particular candlelit scene of Giercksky (below) searching the darkness with a candelabra is both beautiful and foreboding, just as only horror can be at its best! What lies beyond the light of candles, as a horrific contrast to the beauty we see? Mystery and vision compel us to explore, despite the danger! Such are the ironies of art!
With Uninvited, directors Eleni Kounis and Daorsa Imeri have fashioned a minimalist horror film packing maximum punch. As a lesson for Hollywood, great horror doesn’t require big money and great length. Six minutes has never delivered a more efficient example to prove it, using little more than candles, darkness, and great acting. Left lingering in the minds of viewers are common places and common people experiencing uncommon terrors. In places where atmosphere is familiar and visitors are Uninvited, horror is all the stronger.
Uninvited is written and directed by Eleni Kounis and Daorsi Imeri, produced by Eleni Kounis, with cinematography by Damian Budyta, photo assistance by Luca Sciacca and Somar Afram, editing by Doarsa Imeri, editorial assistance by Eleni Kounis, foley artistry by Daorsa Imeri, Eleni Kounis, and Nora Boestad, makeup artistry by Daorsa Imeri, sound by Somar Afram, and awesome music by Forsaken, with special thanks to Fouad Parosh. Uninvited was filmed, on location, in Stockholm, Sweden.
Uninvited is featured below, in Swedish with optional English subtitles. If you need subtitles and they don’t appear automatically, click on the cogwheel symbol and select them. Enjoy!