As usual, Stacie Ponder is right when she pleads for horror movie makers to Put the ‘Care’ Back in Character... or, in other words, try creating a few characters we might actually like in a horror film, rather than ones we can’t wait to see killed. I experienced the same problem watching Platinum Dunes’ new ghostly gobbledegook movie, The Unborn, last night.
Odette Yustman plays main squeeze Casey Beldon – and I use the word “squeeze” not to be sexist but because the poor girl’s been literally squeezed into a pair of panties obviously meant for a nine-year-old. I’m assuming she picked them off the wrong rack or something. Otherwise, the only alternative is that writer-director David S. Goyer didn’t intend to create a main character we could actually feel something for, but one that he could simply shoot from all angles of PG-13 camel-toe as she investigates spooky noises emanating from her bathroom cabinet (and don’t even get me started on the intrinsic non-scariness of haunted cabinets).
But Casey, who also blithely steals a rare book from her local library (a capital offence to my librarian mind), is positively adorable compared to her best friend Romy (Meagan Good), who’s portrayed as flat-out horrible. Visiting a nursing home, she dunks her hand into a bowl of sweets on the reception desk and crams a fistful into her bag while nastily locking eyes with the perfectly pleasant receptionist. Then, she goes on to loudly mock every elderly resident of the home within earshot. Why? No reason. I don’t think Goyer intends to portray her as a bitch. It’s almost as if he just can’t help it.
The film itself is a random assortment of jump scenes so lethally overblown it actually stops feeling like a horror movie. I’ve no idea how anyone would actually find it scary. Similarly, I’ve no idea how Platinum Dunes have got away with calling it an “original screenplay” – other than in comparison to the rest of their output which, prior to The Unborn, has consisted entirely of high-profile remakes. The only thing original about it is the sheer élan with which it lifts elements from other films, from Emily Rose-style exorcism, to Ring-like spooky videos and the aforementioned haunted bathroom cabinet. (What? You haven’t seen Candyman?)
Gary Oldman – whose surname is starting to come true – turns up about halfway through as a sympathetic rabbi who generously consents to translating Casey’s stolen book of Hebrew folklore in his spare time. Oh, and pulls together an impromptu exorcism involving ten interdenominational experts in demonic-type affairs at a moment’s notice. Actually, it’s not a demon as such that’s the problem here (besides the script) but a dybbuk – that is, an evil free-floating soul desperate for a bodily host. If you don’t believe me, check it out on Wikipedia.
Anyway, apologies for the disjointed nature of this review. I know it’s been choppy, haphazard and all over the place. Quite apt, really.
And, Casey... Take that goddamn library book back!