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The Unborn (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
The Unborn (DVD)
Advantages: A decent storyline
Disadvantages: Crashes and burns
There seems to have been a spate of poor horror over the past couple of years - it would be good to watch something half-way decent for once. This 2009 film is a good example of poor horror; it is not low budget, it just takes a story that is actually quite intriguing and turns it into one that is much duller than it needed to be. The story really is quite promising. The idea of someone having a brother that she didn't even know about (mainly because he died in the womb), who then returns to haunt her, for reasons that appear to be linked with Nazi experimentation during the Second World War is fascinating - and for that director and writer, David S Goyer, deserves to be commended. The problem is that once this is revealed, the story takes a distinct nose-dive, and ends up falling so flat that it is hard to find the will to continue watching. Goyer is clearly a talented writer - he has written, or partially written, Flashforward and the Batman films, but perhaps he should stick to writing rather than directing.
Odette Yustman (Cloverfield) plays Casey and gives a reasonable performance. She has to look frightened out of her wits for most of the film and she manages to do it very well - at least, I believed that she was frightened. Had that terror managed to frighten me too, I would have been even more impressed, but that is largely down to the silly storyline rather than her acting. As far as male viewers are concerned, she looks great, which can't hurt the film's reception. However, Yustman was outclassed by the actress who plays Sofi Kozma, Jane Alexander. Although Alexander's screen time was very short, her presence was commanding and it's a shame she didn't have more of a role. Other secondary characters, most notably Casey's boyfriend and best friend, played by Cam Gigandet and Meagan Good, were just bland and, in the case of Gigandet, wooden.
Gary Oldman is an actor for whom I have a great deal of respect. I therefore found it odd to find him billed second in the cast list for his role as a Rabbi to whom Casey turns to for assistance - simply because his role is minimal and, when he is on screen, his performance is less than impressive. He doesn't do anything wrong as such, he just blends into the background. Perhaps this was intentional, but it does seem to be a massive waste of his talent. I was also interested to see Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther) as an exorcist. Again, though, the role peters out into nothing and just seems to be a waste of talent.
The special effects are very good. A scene where Casey is in the bathroom of a nightclub and she starts to see insects in a kind of yucky syrup concoction coming out of the sink and toilets is particuarly well done. Unfortunately, towards the end when the special effects should really come into their own, everything gets so out of hand that I just switched off and the quality of the special effects were irrelevant. The final scenes when Casey is fighting for her life really should have been the highlight of the film, but they sadly flopped quite badly, to the point that I didn't much care what happened to her. There is much more to a horror film than good special effects - in fact, sometimes less than perfect effects make the film that much more entertaining. Here they were almost too slick to make an impression.
One criticism I've read of this film is that it is a hotch potch of a variety of different horror films, to the extent that it almost doesn't have its own identity. That is more or less spot on. There is the haunting/exorcism element that is reminiscent of films such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Amityville Horror, etc. Then there is the evil child syndrome, that smacks of Rosemary's Baby and The Omen. And, of course, there's the skimpily-clad heroine (well, she is some of the time), who is trying to keep herself, and her friends, alive - that's an element that is seen time and time again in films of this genre. The Nazi experimentation element that is introduced half-way through the film did appear to be original, but it was buried amongst everything else that was thrown at us.
There is just one extra that comes with the DVD that I have - a collection of deleted scenes that, as always, were deleted because they weren't necessary.
I found this film ultimately disappointing. It did have its moments, but they just weren't long enough and neither did they go anywhere. This is a film that could have made more of an impression, but it is going to be buried amongst the pile of similarly bad horror films that have come out over the past few years. I'm increasingly finding myself going back in time to horror films of the seventies and eighties, which although full of terrible special effects, at least have a hint of originality and intrigue about them. Sadly, not recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £5.99.
Classification: 15 (swearing and frightening images)
Running time: 88 minutes
Summary: Ought to have been better