There have been many horror films over the years that have used children to scare their audiences (see 5 examples here). The Unborn is one of a few films recently (also see The Children) that deploys this tactic.
Odette Yustman (Cloverfield) plays Casey Beldon, who starts to have dreams of a creepy, blue-eyed, child and a dog wearing a mask of the child’s face. Her eyes also begin to change color following being hit in the face with a mirror, by a child she’s babysitting. Her dreams increase in intensity, she starts to have hallucinations and begins to see the child from her dreams everywhere.
In digging deeper in to what’s happening to her, Casey discovers that she had a twin brother that died in utero and learns of a malevolent spirit, from Jewish folklore, called the Dybbuk. The Dybbuk is unable to gain entry to the afterlife so looks to possess a living person to gain entry to the human world. Casey is convinced that the Dybbuk is responsible for the deaths of her unborn twin brother, her mother and that it now possesses her. The further Casey investigates the matter, those helping her start to die. She’s encouraged to seek out the help of Rabbi Sendak (Gary Oldman) to perform an exorcism. Sendak is initially skeptical but comes round to the idea after coming in contact with a dog with an upside down head. He enlists the help of his good friend Arthur Wyndham (Idris Elba) and sets out to perform the exorcism. Having seen a number of reviews of The Unborn around its cinematic release that put me off making the trip to see it (including here at DOG), I was expecting the film to be absolutely awful. It’s not awful; it’s just not very good. The premise, in principal, is decent – it just hasn’t been executed effectively. It’s not a particularly well-paced film, a lot of time is spent setting the story and leads to, what seems like, a rushed finish. I’m not adverse to time being spent setting up the story, far from it. I’m just not a fan of rushed endings. Presumably the decision was made to get the film’s runtime to come in at under an hour and a half.
The dialogue isn’t strong either; there are a couple of moments that border on the ridiculous – “You must finish what was started in Auschwitz.” being one example. For someone involved in writing Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Dark City and the Blade trilogy, you expect better things from David S Goyer than what we see here.
The performances by the majority of the cast are poor; those who show any kind of presence or ability are sidelined in preference of their younger colleagues. Gary Oldman and The Wire’s Idris Elba provide the best performances despite being given limited screen time. There are also some awful set pieces – Gary Oldman’s showdown with the dog with an upside down head is the highlight (or rather lowlight). Very little, if any, of the film is original – so much has been borrowed from other (better) films.
The film isn’t all that bad though, there were a few moments that made me jump – although I do tend to jump at anything, so that’s possibly not saying much. It also looks OK given its relatively modest budget, although some of the effects are a little weak.
The transfer to Blu-ray is respectable. The picture is average, but there aren’t any noticeable faults. The best moments are the aerial shots of the city, which are incredibly detailed. The sound, however, isn’t good at all. I struggled to hear the dialogue throughout the majority of the film, despite having the volume up quite high. Didn’t have the same problem hearing the tricks deployed to make viewers jump, which are obscenely loud, especially in contrast to the dialogue. I’m guessing this is intentional to get people to jump more – which is a bit of a cheap tactic if true.
Extras You get the theatrical and uncut versions of the movie as well as a selection of deleted scenes. There’s also the option to connect to BD Live, although this wasn’t working at the time of review. Certainly not an amazing array, but fitting given the overall quality of the movie.