THE UNBORNMOVIE REVIEW
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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
Writer David S. Goyer (who looks remarkably like actor Stanley Tucci) has penned or co-penned some of my favorite movies: THE PUPPET MASTERS, DARK CITY, BLADE, BLADE II, BATMAN BEGINS, and DARK KNIGHT.
Unfortunately he has also directed some truly bad films from BLADE: TRINITY to THE INVISIBLE.
For THE UNBORN, David is in both the Writer's chair and the Director's chair. David didn't produce this though. This was produced by Michael Bay.
THE UNBORN starts with a young woman jogging through a snowy park. She comes across a blue knit mitten, a creepy-eyed boy wearing only one blue knit mitten, a dog, a dog wearing a mask that looks like a boy, and a jar of something in the dirt.
Well, okay, this was a dream and the young woman is Casey Beldon (Odette Yusman: TRANSFORMERS, CLOVERFIELD). She asks her best friend Romy (Megan Goode: BRICK, VENOM, ONE MISSED CALL, SAW V), what it all means and gets the breakdown on the lowdown. But what does it really all mean?
Casey continues to get visions and it puts a rather severe crimp on her life as the visions keep getting worse. Not that life was ever any great shakes for Casey and her high-powered wealthy executive Pop, Gordon (James Remar: BLADE: TRINITY), what with Mom & Wife going nuts and dying in an insane asylum. It gets lonely in a castle-sized mansion for only two people, and when Pop goes on an extended business trip, Casey is left to defend for herself against oddball visions and the neighbor's kid who is possessed by some wicked Boo!
If you think I'm writing with some detachment here, you're right. None of the characters were fleshed out in the least and the mystery is all pretty much straightforward by the numbers.
In fact, its mind-boggling how easy it is that, when Casey stumbles upon a mystery, she inexplicably knows exactly who or where to go to to add another solved piece to the puzzle. And by the time Casey and her squinty-eyed boyfriend Mark (Cam Gigandet: TWILIGHT) start bonin' in the bedroom, whilst witnessed by will-o-wisps, the ending of this flick is a foregone conclusion.
Casey discovers a grandma she never knew (Jane Alexander: THE RING) who up and gives her a clue. This was something the old lady wasn't about to do until a demon who didn't want her to do that, warned her not to, so she did.
Casey discovers she's Jewish and consults a Rabbi (Gary Oldman: DRACULA , HANNIBAL, HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, BATMAN BEGINS, HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, THE DARK KNIGHT), who likely wouldn't have given her much help if a pesky demon didn't warn him not to do it. But one did so he does.
Even Casey's best friend is warned not to help Casey, so she does anyway. Whatever powers this evil spirit has, communication isn't one of them.
There are plenty of jump in your seat frights and at least these aren't cheats. No hands on the shoulder, cats jumping out, or shadows that move past the camera suddenly with the audible delicacy of a freight train.
And while we're on the subject of clichés, THE UNBORN gets an
David S. Goyer is a good enough writer that there was nothing to hate here. Unfortunately he's a bad enough director that there is nothing to really like here. The script isn't stupid, the story is decent, but there is no characterization. Why should we like or be interested in any of these people?
Also, its one thing to build up the suspense by slowly drawing the audience into a dark and quiet place where you just know that something is going to pop out.
These work well for a few times in any good Horror Thriller movie. But in THE UNBORN, Goyer even directs our attention to precisely WHERE the object of scare will appear and, after repeating this gimmick far too many times, the moment turns from fright to laughter.
I'm certain that the laughter was unintended in more than a few of these scenes in the second half of the movie, but there you have it.
The movie doesn't breakdown, it just doesn't progress.
Because it's such a straight line of One-Damn-Thing-After-Another, our anticipation, over-rewarded to the point of pavlovian response (if you think "X" is going to happen next, you are right - the set up is that obvious), is sated and indifferent long before the third act. By the third act in a Horror Thriller we should be on the edge of our seat, careening toward a terrifying climax. Yet that creepy kid's face popping out of the dark is only going to be scary the first dozen or so times and then that's it.
From the start and on and on through the movie it also gets pounded into our heads that "Jumby", the Unborn, wants to be born.
"Jumby" is a Hebrew supernatural "Dibuk": Kabbala for an evil spirit. The yang to an Ibur's ying. Unlike an Ibur, good unborn spirits that are the scrubbing bubbles of the human soul, Dibuk's are bad and make the possessed person commit the same wicked mitzvahs the Dibuk did in life and eventually cause the host to die (Mitvah = Karma to you or me, unless you happen to believe this Kabbala crap - and if you do? Good for you!).
Understand that Jumby can take over anyone he cares to, apparently for as long as he wants to, except for Casey. He seems to control electricity and even the weather. He appears to have powers that Storm of the XMEN can only dream about.
So just what is it about being born human, frail, powerless, and mortal, that Jumby finds so damn appealing? And if he did get born, so what? Unlike, say, ROSEMARY'S BABY, Jumby has no support group to see him through to birth and a good private school. Why would Jumby being a helpless baby be worse than Jumby as an awesome force of nature? You get pregnant with Jumby, you get an abortion.
Goyer really needs to watch a few good Horror Thriller movies by the masters to see how its done. The audience has to get invested in the characters first, if we are going to care about them. Like the movie, Casey starts off all weird and messed up and that's all we ever see. Zero character arc. So we have no idea how or why any of this would all of a sudden be frightening to her. We've been given no insight into what her life ever was before the shit hit the fan.
I'm getting an insight into why Mr. Goyer rarely writes a movie alone. To David's credit though, I think this is the first Michael Bay produced movie I've ever seen that didn't have at least one explosion. It couldn't have been easy fighting Michael over THAT!
3 Shriek Girls.