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The Unborn (DVD)
Member Name: plipplop
The Unborn (DVD)
Date: 10/08/09, updated on 10/08/09 (168 review reads)
Advantages: Full of jumps and jolts and competent(ish) special effects
Disadvantages: Predictable and going through the horror motions
For a teenaged girl, Casey Beldon lives a reasonably normal life. Living alone with her father, she is beautiful, popular and has a gorgeous, kind boyfriend. But Casey is seeing things. In the park where she jogs, on the way home from school and in numerous other places, she sees what appears to be the broken figure of a ghastly looking little boy. He stalks her dreams and seems to lurk in the darkest corners of her nightmares. But then Casey starts to realise that the boy is not just a figment of her imagination and in spite of her best friend's protests that it's all in her mind, she finds herself compelled to find out who - or what - the little boy actually is. But she is ill prepared for what she is about to find out....
Continually gorging myself on a succession of shallow, disaffecting teenaged horror films, I can offer some advice to anyone thinking of making friends with somebody at school. If the child's mother has committed suicide, stay well clear. Statistically, I'm sure the chances of losing a parent in such a fashion are reasonably low, but where teenaged American horror is concerned, parental suicide rates are up there with infections from a common cold, and when this occurs, everyone associated is bound to suffer. At least, that's what writer/director David S Goyer seems to think in this ill-conceived little shocker that seems intent on using every cliché in the book.
It all happens so rapidly and so pointlessly. Traditionally, such a narrative would tread a very normal path, with a gentle introduction to what appears to be a perfect life, followed by a succession of inexplicable, craaaaazy things that plunge our hero or heroine into a supernatural nightmare. Goyer is, however, rather more benevolent than this and decides that The Unborn should launch into its spooky little plot without even a whisker of an introduction because, let's face it, he can stick one of those in later. As such, Casey and the audience are thrown immediately into the heart of the matter as the teenager finds herself fighting against a nasty, possessive spirit that has a taste for members of her family.
Quite why this is the case is never really explained. True, there is some old guffin featuring the second world war, Nazi experiments and curmudgeonly old German women but it feels as though the story was crafted around the film, rather than the other way round. The 'history' of the spirit is questionable, and it's hard not to find yourself exploring and questioning an ever-increasing number of plot holes. If the spirit is powerful enough to do some of the things we see him doing, he seems to take an awfully long time to get round to doing it with Casey and why, after all these years, does he choose to act only now? The immediate explanation doesn't really hold any water, given only that this particular reason has been a reason for a reasonably long period of time (in the story) and a secondary, shocking reason, revealed via the final denouement, is even less plausible because this reason came to be some time after the spirit first arrived on the scene for reasons that only he seems to understand. Confused? You may well be.
Ergo, in the face of such an unreasonably superficial storyline, the director does what any self-respecting Hollywood director would do and stuffs the thing full of jaunty little jolts and shocks intended to distract the confused audience and to try and frighten them into forgetting that it's all a load of bobbins. As such, anything that can slam does, anything that can fall over drops like a bomb and the nasty little spirit thing crops up as often as possible, for no other reason than to scare the shit out of Casey. Said shocks and scares are often quite well done, strangely enough, with some nasty little transformations taking place to those close to Casey (no more so than a rather unfortunate, incontinent old man whose head twists 180 degrees on his neck, catalysing a transformation into a sort of piss-ridden devil man-crab.) There's not really any point to any of it, but it does, at the very least, liven things up enough to hurtle things along to the inevitable séance-cum-exorcism that only ever happens in a film like this.
Generally, the acting is a bit ropy too. Odette Yustman was almost certainly not selected for her acting ability and whilst she is extremely nice to look at, the gratuitous shots of her parading around in her under garments quickly wear thin. Curiously, she's almost entirely unsympathetic too. Despite her desperate plight, it's hard to every really give two hoots about what happens to her and you soon find yourself why anyone is putting themselves through such hardship for such a whingy little witch. Boyfriend Mark (the unquestionably hot Cam Gigandet) is rather too superficial to be of any use and Gigandet is sorely underused here, particularly given his one, brief underwear scene. Whatever possessed Gary Oldman to join this particular production remains to be seen and even he (an actor of some presence) fails to convince us in the slightest as a Jewish Rabbi named Sendak. Best friend Romy (Meagan Good) gets some good lines at least (there's a particularly amusing bit where she tells a particularly annoying little moppet to f*** off) and would, in many ways, have made a far more appealing lead.
Unsurprisingly, The Unborn has turned into something of an object of ridicule where online reviewers and writers are concerned, which, ironically, is probably a little undeserved. The plot is, without a doubt, very silly and very superficial, but no more so than countless other films in the genre. It's the delivery that lets The Unborn down. The drab acting and characterisation, coupled with a complete lack of any identifiable directorial style mean that something that could have been reasonably creepy or exciting is never really either. This is a definite case of just 'going through the motions' and following a similar lacklustre production (The Invisible) it's hard to see why Goyer keeps bothering. This isn't the turkey that some have suggested but it's certainly nothing special and just another example of why some American directors really should have their camera confiscated.
Summary: The history of a foetid foetus