Friday, September 11, 2009

The Unborn (2009)

Title: The Unborn (2009)

Director/Writer: David S. Goyer


I always give “new” horror a chance. By that I mean that no matter how bad new horror films are, I always give them the benefit of the doubt. Who knows, we might turn out getting something as cool as Frank Darabont’s The Mistm (2007), an excellent example of what a good American horror movie should be like. Unfortunately, most of the time I end up getting disappointed with the new stuff that emerges. The Unborn was one such film.

Story revolves around this girl who is haunted by a ghost/demon which wants to posses her body. She goes around telling people about it, trying to get somebody to believe her. We get a lot of jump scares, she investigates stuff about the demon and has a bunch of nightmares involving the demon. Spooky imagery and dream sequences ensue.

David S. Goyer, the writer/director of this here film isn’t a new comer to horror films, or films in general for that matter. The guy is a very prolific writer, he’s written scripts for everything from the biggest event films like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to the lowest zero budget horror flicks like Dollman vs. Demonic Toys. They guy has been all over the spectrum. For me, he works better as a writer then as a director. Whenever he takes a stab at directing a film, the results aren’t all that great. Blade Trinity is a good example of that. He wrote all three Blade movies and the first two are great cause he didn’t direct them. But as soon as he steps in to direct Blade Trinity, we get the first disappointing film in the series. Now I’m not gonna say that The Unborn was badly directed cause it does have its moments, there’s some genuinely creepy moments in there, there’s some disturbing imagery, some cool shots. The movie looks beautiful technically speaking, but suffers in the script/story department. Which is an ailment that modern horror movies suffer from today. They look great, but suck storywise. Ironically (and I say ironically because Goyers a writer!) I think it’s in the writing department in which this film was lacking. You’d think that a writer who gets a chance to direct his own material would deliver a better film then this. That they’d have a better grasp of the story or what would work or wouldn’t. Unfortunately, it appears as if handling both duties as writer and director is a bit too much for Goyer.

This film is trying to pay homage to a few horror classics. Mainly, its trying really hard to be three films: The Shinning, The Exorcist and Rosemarys Baby. Now, I aint blaming it for trying to be like those movies, and Im sure Goyer’s idea was to unite the best elements of these three films and make one gigantic homage to them, and in the way trying to be as successful as these three films as well. Unfortunately, the problem with The Unborn was that I just couldn’t buy into the whole hocus pocus bullshit. The trick to a good supernatural movie is to get the audience to believe what is happening, to make them buy into the whole demons are real shtick. The Exorcist for me is incredibly successful with that. Unfortunately this movie wasn’t helping me buy into any of it. Why? For starters the actors involved weren’t doing a very good job of convincing me. When you see The Exorcist, Ellen Burstyn makes you believe that her daughter is possessed. Linda Blair did such a fine job as a possessed teen! She really went all out. In Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, Mia Farrow truly does sell me her paranoia. Unfortunately in The Unborn, its main stars and the films director seem to be too concerned with having all the leads in the film look super hot. I mean, real people don’t look like this! Not everyone’s a freaking gap model dressed like that. I couldn’t buy these kids as being real, they just seemed like another pretty face looking to make it big in Hollywood. We need real people in films to believe em! Sorry to say even Gary Oldman didnt convince me on this one. Normally he is such a fine actor, but Im sad to inform he phoned in his performance on this one.

Mr. Oldman, what are you doing in this shitty movie man?

Another problem for me with this film was that it was too concerned with boo scares. Boo scares consist of the movie turning up the volume really loud all of the sudden to scare you. Or having something really frightning happen all of the sudden to catch you off guard. A boo scare doesnt try to really scare you, its a cheap way of getting you to jump from your seat and say "ooh that was scary!" For me that’s a problem with modern day horror films. They gotta boo scare you to death with loud music and creepy images for a couple of seconds. And then, swap! the film cuts away to some other thing. Whatever happened to sustaining one note of horror, not cutting away to something else but remaining in the horrifying moment, developing it, making it interesting? This movie does that very little. It will show you some creepy ghost, or demon or whatever and the cut away immediately to some other part of the story. Imagine if during The Exorcist, just when you see Linda Blair’s demonic face, the film would have cut to something else. It wouldnt have been as effective, cause what was scary was watching Linda Blair, a 12 year old looking all demonic and evil and perverse. What’s wrong with todays horror films? Why cant they sustain one continuous scary moment?

Okay so the boo scares pissed me off. What else was off with this movie? The script. It made no sense sometimes. And this is the thing that surprises me the most since Goyer has written some decent scripts in his time. What happened here? The jist of the film is that a spirit who was denied the entrance to heaven is looking for a body to inhabit. Um, excuse me but aren’t those kind of spirits sent to hell according to the bible? Why does this one linger about? And for some reason, the demon is obsessed with this one particular chick. The explanation? Cause she is a twin and demons just LOVE to posses twins. Why? Who the fuck knows, they just love em! So for the rest of the film the demon is after this girl. Why isn’t the demon happy with possessing anybody else? I mean, the demon practically goes around from body to body through out the whole film! Why not just stay in one of those? What’s the obsession with possessing a twin? I dont know, cause its never explained.

And what about the whole modernization of exorcism? Back in the days of  The Exorcist, a demon movie was based on Catholicism and its mythology. But not now. Not in our modern and diverse world. This exorcism doesn’t necessarily subscribe to catholic beliefs! They come up with some explenation as to how the exorcism actually ends up being a Jewish exorcism anyhows! In spite of the fact that they explain that religions don’t matter with this particular demon! And the kids have to sign some sort of release form in order for the priest to perform the exorcism. And heres the funniest part, they have to show their i.d’s to the priest in order to do it! Ha ha! Funny stuff right there! Its was like, “Okay, you are over 18, we can do it!” I was laughing by then. Then, not only that but the exorcism itself is such a silly affair. They have to say these “magic words” from some magical scripture that will make the demon go away, and they say these magic words in Hebrew, and then translate them to English solely for the purpose of having the audience understand them! That was so silly! Then they blow some sort of gigantic horn to scare the demon away, like I said silly shit. Don’t know if its just me or what, but religious horror films just aren’t scary anymore. At least not to me anyways. Or maybe this flick just made everything look too silly for me to be scared at all?

Also, I can appreciate a good dream sequence as much as the next guy. They can help us see the inner psychology of a character and what have you. But a huge chunk of this movie is composed of dream sequences. Its like one dream sequence after another. The thing with dream sequences is that they can be used in various ways. One is to let us know what the main character is thinking, what the character is afraid of. That’s one. The other way in which a dream sequence can be used is to squeeze in a scary/disturbing images in your film. Give the audience a little fun, a visual gag, a little scare. This is helpful in a horror movie because basically in the dream world, anything can happen. Unfortunately, you cannot over do this. Why? Because a dream is just a dream, and essentially, when ever a character is dreaming, it means NOTHING is happening in the real world. That’s a problem with this here film, most of it is nightmare sequence after nightmare sequence. Scary imagery in the sequences, but not much happening in the real world.

Imagery wise the film does have its moments. There are some disturbing images with the demon related stuff. Distorted faces, demon kids, demon dogs, demon elderly folk, and everything in this movie has its head upside down! The stuff you see in the nightmare sequences is awesome. Loved some of the scenes with the demon kid going all perverse. The make up effects work was excellent as was the visual effects. But again, we don’t get to see much of it cause the movie is so freaking concerned with cutting away to something else. It tries to scare you with some disturbing imagery, and then runs off to something else. Why??

Im fine with showing hot chicks in films. But shamelessly exploiting them like on this movie? What is this Transformers 2? Oh, wait, this movie was produced by Michael Bay! Everything kind of makes sense when you put that name into the equation. Michael Bays movies are all about hot chicks and superficiality. He probably set the rules for this movie as well! He probably told Goyer, "look, just put the young actress in her underwear for a huge chunk of the film, the dudes will line up to see it!"  It seems every other scene has the  main young actress running around in underwear, as if saying "We gotta give something to the young male audience to see!"  That sucked! The word I’m looking for is gratuitous. For fucks sake, even in the poster this girls in her undies! She hot, yeah, but come on.

Anyhows, sad to see that Goyer didn’t really bother writing a script that made some sense. That was a huge problem for me because you might have disturbing imagery but if you don’t have a convincing story to back it up, it all becomes silly and pointless. Like this movie. Or maybe religious themed horror movies just aren’t that scary anymore? Maybe this kind of film might have spooked audiences in the 70s or something, but now, it just feels like your watching a bunch of cgi effects with no soul or purpose. Or without any true comprehension of what is truly frightening to humans nowadays.

Rating: 2 out of 5


Mr. Fiendish said...

Best thing about this movie? THAT ASSSSSSSS!

Franco Macabro said...

Totally agree with you, though the movie sucked ass in my book, it has a great ass all through out. Ironic!

Matt Poirier said...

I saw this with my friends on OnDemand a few weeks ago, and none of us were impressed. The butt was the only redeeming quality of it. The nice Chicago suburbs reminded me of the late John Hughes' films, so that was another plus. Brings me back to the 80s, when Chicago was cool. Now it's so un-cool, even Obama can't convince us otherwise. This film is just indicative of how far Chicago has fallen.


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