The Unborn (2009)

Directed By: David S. Goyer
Written By: David S. Goyer
Starring: Odette Yustman
  Cam Gigandet
  Gary Oldman
  Idris Elba
The Unborn

Casey Beldon is being haunted, this is clear. Only when some of these nightly horrors start seeping in her reality does she realise something incredibly dangerous is coming for her, and nothing will stand in its way. Nothing but an ancient book, some shameless Exorcist plagiarism and the arrival of some people who can actually act.

Despite taking writing credits for the excellent Blade, Dark City and Batman Begins, David S. Goyer has also taken directorial responsibility for the soulless Blade: Trinity and proves with The Unborn that he should remain as a writer.

Twenty-four year old Odette Yustman as protagonist Casey is sadly miscast as a teenager and, although enjoyable eye-candy, even the most chauvinistic of viewers will find the ample shots of Yustman’s amples a little over-done. Her beauty surpasses her acting skills, and whether the fault of script or direction, she merely spends her time looking afraid and never really showing any kind of likeability. The patronizing trudge towards the inevitable exorcism is frustratingly obvious, but it does get better.

As the film progresses it vastly improves, with some stunning set pieces and convincing turns from Idris Elba and Goyer’s mate Gary Oldman, who both add the gravitas needed to knock The Unborn away from being truly forgettable. There are a couple of well-made set pieces to watch out for too – especially one in a retirement home featuring a scene which smacks of In The Mouth of Madness style body twisting horror – disturbing and well executed.

Despite the occasional freaky set-piece and electric ending, The Unborn doesn’t so much as touch on the ideas of other similar films, but more vomits out clichés until its throat is dry. We have suicide mum, “crazy” old woman who’s clearly not nuts, disbelieving and horribly frustrating friends, old spooky mental asylums, a weird mystic book, noisy purposeless jump cuts and 1001 stupid decisions… and everyone’s favourite shocker – Nazi scientists!

There are some saving graces in The Unborn. Although unforgivably simple, the plot does keep you gripped as the demonic force gradually possesses stronger and stronger people, starting with children and working its way up to the adults in Casey’s life. When the danger grows worse and worse, Casey turns to a man of God to help her defeat the evil (if not hilariously named) Jumby…

The writer / director issue is evident in the lack of discipline in cutting / altering some of the more ridiculous lines such as “Are you familiar with the term genetic mosaicism?” the eye doctor asks the teenager. Oddly no, she isn’t. Then there is the demonic uttering of “Jumby wants to be born now”, which is just amusingly silly and hardly a scary phrase. Tragically this sums up The Unborn perfectly – there are some beautiful set-pieces and some genuine scares, but for every Gary Oldman scene or possessed child there is some stupid Nazi Scientist back story or a line like “Jumby wants to be born now”.

The reason for Jumby’s wanting to be born is unclear – will he wreak havoc on mankind, or will he just have a tantrum in a Wal-Mart car park? Casey’s attempts to stop him leads to a lot of death, and it makes you wonder why she just didn’t let him be born and then kill him with a flamethrower.

The Unborn is watchable but mostly uninspired. The latter half of it picks up tremendously, but it’s hardly worth sitting through the sub-Supernatural storyline to get there. Silly in places, scary in some, pointless in most, The Unborn sits firmly in mediocrity.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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