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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Movie Review: The Unborn

The Unwatchable.



A comparison between a horror film and a piece of fish wouldn’t be overly conspicuous. Like allowing that tender slice of fish melt in your mouth, watching a macabre tale unfold on the screen never gets stale. Part of this could be attributed to the fact that there are many ways to approach the development of a horror movie – just like how there could be many ways to cook a piece of fish. Depending on the way it is cooked – be it subtle or drastic adjustments in the atmosphere and the music, the story, or the gore and special effects, a horror film could either produce a mildly tantalizing or distinctively spicy taste. But what happens when you don’t even bother to add the oil if you want to fry the fish, start the fire if you want to grill it, or boil the water if you want to make steamed fish? The result is a lackadaisical showing that shows paroxysms of potential, yet ends up as an idea best described as misbegotten.

Casey Beldon (Odette Yustman) is just another ordinary young woman jogging in the park one day when she sees a kid staring at her with an eerie gaze. Her life turns topside soon after as the kid starts stalking her and gradually killing people around her. With the help of her grandmother (Jane Alexander), Casey discovers that a curse has befallen her family during the Holocaust. The curse involves an evil spirit being constantly in search of a new body to inhabit. Casey’s mother (Carlo Gugino) passed away trying to stop the vicious cycle and the time has come for Casey’s turn to halt it. Aided by her best friend (Meagan Good) and her boyfriend (Cam Gigandet), Casey must now rush against time to search for a way to break the curse before the evil spirit claims her life.

Suffice to say that there is already an established set of elements which are necessary for a truly intriguing and engaging horror film and we have come to expect this set of elements in every macabre tale we choose to listen to. The most fundamental problem with The Unborn which makes it so annoyingly mediocre and hardly watchable isn’t with its idea – in fact, it has a great premise – but with how it chooses to discard the basic ingredients of a horror film ever so clumsily and ignorantly.

One of most cardinal devices needed to manufacture a respectable tale of fright and thrill is the story. The plot as shallow as it is – it’s literally about Casey being SUDDENLY haunted by a kid and having to get rid of it. It is a rather interesting premise that has lots of potential for plot expansions and I was waiting to see if David S. Goyer could conjure up any surprises. But as I was watching the movie, I realized that he was just mixing unnecessarily elaborate exposition with random ‘Gotcha! I scared you, didn’t I?’ crap. It’s painful knowing that the movie will never shift into second gear with all those RANDOM nonsense, but even more painful understanding that there would be no surprises. Watching The Unborn felt like watching a game of Whac-a-Mole. It’s a straightforward concept made better only by a few random pops. The result is a movie that felt like a collection of boring scenes strung together. Not even once was I made to care about what would happen to the characters. The movie just kind of moved along languidly and it ended on an equally predictable scene that hardly qualifies as a climax.

Equipped with a hopeless story, the only way The Unborn could be salvaged is by scaring us senseless with its random ‘Gotcha!’ scenes. As expected, it cheerfully puts itself beyond redemption by having a PG rating stickered onto it. I really feel that filmmakers need to understand this: If you want to make a film that caters to families – toddlers, children, parents, grandparents, you make an animated feature or a family-friendly flick like Journey to the Centre of the Earth, City of Ember or Race to Witch Mountain – a movie where everyone can enjoy. However, if you want to make a horror film, you make one – not one that stays on the line between a family-friendly flick and a horror film. Horror films cater to horror fans, not to whole families.

Little boy scares the heck out of everyone.

The Unborn is just about as scary as a cockroach. There are only 1 or 2 legitimate scare scenes in the entire film. The remaining ones are so dumb that they will make you fall asleep in the cinema. The Unborn substitutes basic blood drips and splashes with stabs that result in wounds with no blood, truly hideous and terrifying flying faces with dogs wearing human masks that look as if they were stolen from a birthday party, a ghostly figure with a kid who has apparently been taught to stare blankly at people and dogs with wrongly positioned heads. What’s the point? The Unborn’s most hilarious effects come in the form of lame flickering lights – something which was used to such a huge extent that I began to wonder whether the movie was trying to introduce me the idea that I should be afraid of the dark – because the screening hall is dark! Let me teach the brains behind this movie a lesson in horror filmmaking: The dark is something you exploit for other scare tactics, not something that you expand upon by using it extensively. When there’s a line in the film that goes, “Do you believe in ghosts?”, you know that the film’s going to suck – and yes, The Unborn really sucks like vomit.

The lack of a deep plot and gore really hurt. But what makes this film the worst one I have watched besides the equally abysmal RocknRolla is the fact that there’s NO music in this film! NO music! The whole movie just felt like a board meeting where ideas are being passed around in an otherwise silent environment. How could a movie commit such a grave mistake like this? The total lack of music removes the atmosphere. Characters are really just lifeless cardboard cut-outs prattling away and scare scenes are there for the sake of being there because The Unborn was categorized into the horror genre.

Final comments
The Unborn is a grossly boring and tasteless movie – one that is annoyingly mediocre and hardly watchable. There is a very shallow story that consists of unnecessarily elaborate expositions and random ‘Gotcha’ crap, scare scenes that are too retarded to even make it into a made-for-TV film, and a total lack of music and atmosphere. That’s all the necessary ingredients for a horror film being disposed of. And so what do you have here? Zilch. That’s a perfect answer because The Unborn is one stinking pile of mess.

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