26 June 2009

Movie Review: The Unborn


The Unborn
2009, 87mins, PG-13
Director: David. S. Goyer
Writer: David. S. Goyer
Cast includes: Odette Yustman, Gary Oldman, Idris Elba, Cam Gigandet, Meagan Good, Jane Alexander
Release Date: 9th January 2009

“The Unborn” is that most unfortunate of things, a horror film that makes you laugh harder than you shiver. I can only recount one occasion where this labyrinth of clich├ęs and tame horror tactics actually got my heart moving, and even then director Goyer failed to capitalize or build properly on the occasion. The film is predictable on every front and is happy to swipe as many concepts and far fetched ideas as it can, before arriving at it’s thoroughly generic and unimpressive finale. One can only assume that proficient actors like Idris Elba and Gary Oldman took their admittedly small parts for big pay cheques, otherwise you would have to seriously evaluate the artistic credibility of both. There can’t have been any point in production where “The Unborn” actually looked like it might manifest into a decent motion picture. It’s just not possible.

The film wastes no time in getting the ball rolling, Goyer clearly seeing any sort of adequate character construction as inferior to his bag of pappy tricks and second rate scares. Casey (Odette Yustman) has been suffering bad dreams and as they keep reoccurring she begins to suspect they may have greater meaning. After consulting friends on the matter she casts it aside until a series of traumatising experiences (attacked by a child, insects in your eggs....the usual stuff) makes her believe that her terrifying night visions and these ominous occurrences could be linked. After doing a little routing in her past she finds her suicidal mother suffered the same horrible hallucinations, but is also provided with a clue as to how they might be stopped. Forwarded via an elusive relation to a Rabbi (Gary Oldman), Casey see’s only one chance to be rid of her demonic haunting once and for all, by performing an exorcism with the help of her newfound religious connections.

There are feeble attempts at adding story details in order to make “The Unborn” seem more original than it is, but these cheap and exploitative subtleties are easy to see past and thus the whole nature of the picture is from the off set that of a heinous bore. The movies attempts to conjure up some mumbo jumbo about twins and mirrors, neither actually all that fresh to begin with, but these can’t overshadow the flaccid and thoroughly predictable screenplay. I would be fascinated to know how long it took Goyer to write “The Unborn”, because it seems with a few DVD rentals to crib from and a long weekend to write up, this sort of half baked nonsense could be pumped out in no time.

The performances are dreadful from start to finish. Yustman who had a moderate role in last year’s mega hit “Cloverfield” isn’t going to find the same success with this tripe, after all the one sheet poster actually requires the actress’s to appear in tight underwear with her rear in clear view. The film utilises this tactic to, Goyer apparently thinking that because she has a pretty face and body Yustman’s sub-par acting will thus be excused. 12 year old boys might share his view (they’re also the only demographic likely to be scared) but I certainly didn’t. If I wanted to stare at beautiful women in their underwear a Google Image search will more than suffice, so an attempt to fob of an entire performance on such grounds just won’t wash. Yustman’s inability to connect with the audience is a fatal flaw seeing as she is the centre piece of the entire mess, but there isn’t even any minor pleasure to be derived from the support.

Meaghan Good and Cam Gigandet are horrible as Casey’s college buddies whilst Idris Elba and Oldman don’t even bring any sort of overacting joy to proceedings. For such able guys their acting is unforgivably flat and the roles to small and underdeveloped to do anything with. I can forgive Oldman because he last participated in “The Dark Knight”. For Elba this is another in a long run of losing properties including the equally tame and unsatisfying horror outing “Prom Night”.

The film has an upmarket look but there is little unique in the visual design, whilst Goyer’s various methods of soliciting scares are more laugh inducing than fear implanting. The ghostly child imagery is used at a relentlessly pathetic rate whilst all the old possession tick and quirks are also present. We are given spider-walking old men, deformed animals and ominous whispers of an unstoppable evil but never does it provoke the slightest iota of terror. Also a subplot which draws Nazi experimentation into proceedings is simply in bad taste, adding to the stinking carcass of puerile guff that “The Unborn” attempts to feed the audience. There is nothing new here to see in terms of horror and the PG-13 rating keeps it at a bloodless basin dwelling level of viscera, meaning that not even brain dead gore hounds could find a reason to turn this schlock into a hit.

It’s not like I was expecting much from “The Unborn” but I never pre-empted the levels of turgid awfulness that it’s willing to dive to. There is one instance where a CGI aided moment might get the adrenaline rushing but aside from that it’s a series of merciless rip offs wrapped around an idiotic and totally predictable screenplay. The direction and writing are the biggest culprit’s as to why this degrading nonsense slips up but one can’t overlook the disagreeable acting as a key reason as to why it fails to engage. Even the most undemanding horror devotees are going to wish that “The Unborn” had never been conceived.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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