The Unborn opens with a dream sequence that includes a dog wearing a mask. And yes, the rest of the movie is just as funny. In fact, if you go into the movie expecting a comedy you’ll come out extremely satisfied. Just don’t expect anything resembling a competent horror film.
Casey Beldon (Odette Yustman) wakes from the nightmare that also featured a creepy little boy and a fetus in a jar, but the visions continue into her daily life. Her eyes are changing color, the neighbor kid assaults her and mumbles strange warnings about Gumby, something’s knocking from behind her bathroom mirror, and there are bugs everywhere. And what about her mother’s suicide several years earlier? And is she a twin? What can it all mean?
Nazis. Obviously. It seems an evil was born in the bowels of Auschwitz, or not born as the case may be, and now it wants to born again. Or something. There are spirits that for one reason or another are barred from entering heaven, so instead they wander the nether regions between here and there waiting for an opportunity to re-enter our world. The best doorways for this are twins, because what are twins but the ultimate mirror! Just another reason why twins freak me out.
Helping Casey make sense of it all are her best friend Romy (Meagan Good), her boyfriend Mark (Cam Gigandet), an old Jewish woman named Sofi (Jane Alexander), and the friendly Rabbi Sendak (Gary Oldman). Good actually has some of the only intentionally funny lines in the movie, including one where she tells the four year-old neighbor Matty (Atticus Shaffer) to fuck off after hitting him with her car. Oldman’s presence can only be explained by his friendship with writer/director David Goyer, who wrote Batman Begins and has a story credit on The Dark Knight. Oldman’s role is a supporting one at best, and even he can’t make some of Goyer’s terrible dialogue sound believable.
The most important element of a horror film comes down to the scares. They can be jump-type scares or even a creeping feeling of dread, as long as it’s something to make the audience feel uneasy, to make the heart race, the fingers clench… but The Unborn has none of that. (Although Yustman’s shower and underwear scenes definitely make the blood flow.) Nothing in the film is allowed to be organically frightening. The scares are manufactured and forced by way of quick edits. Some of the visual effects can be pretty creepy, the old man crawling on all fours in particular, but those scenes are extremely rare. For the most part we’re stuck with flash cuts that zoom in on screaming faces, “spooky” images inter-cut with normal scenes, and the little kid popping out of medicine cabinets. Oh, and a dog with an upside-down head. The showing I attended last night was to a packed house, and there was more laughter during the movie than during any two Judd Apatow films.
Goyer gets credit for making an “original” horror film instead of just another remake, and for trying to imbue his story with some historical background, but he proceeds to lose it all (and then some) with ridiculous dialogue and some unanswered inconsistencies. **Possible spoiler! ** The spirit is trying to regain entry into this world by taking possession of an existing body, right? So first it’s able to successfully reanimate a dead boy, then it possesses a kid in the womb, the neighbor kid, an old man, and a few others… so what’s the problem? Why all the fuss about twins and babies and Casey when clearly the spirit is already able to take over whomever it wants? And why did it wait fifty years before returning? And why’d the baby across the street die?
Bottom line, there’s nothing new or interesting here. Scary kids? Been done a million times before, usually better. Ditto the nightmares, the exorcism, etc. It’s perhaps a bit harsh to wish that Goyer had been aborted, so I’ll settle for him being banished from film-making. Sure, the Blade trilogy is a guilty pleasure of mine, and I’ll accept that Goyer had some input into the two recent Batman films, but that’s really it. The Invisible? Jumper? Nick Fury: Agent of Shield? He belongs in the direct to DVD world, yet somehow has crossed over into the land of big-budgets and theatrical releases. Perhaps an exorcism is in order…
The Upside: Yustman in her underwear not once but twice in the first thirty minutes; practical effects were cool.
The Downside: Incredibly stupid; explains so much but still leaves huge gaps of logic; screenplay is both terrible and unintentionally hilarious.