The Unforgiving (2011)

The Unforgiving is precisely that; unforgiving, unrelenting, furious, confused, bloody, stylish and insanely fast. It is also badly acted, infuriatingly directed, painfully edited and simply exceedingly annoying. It is an unforgiving experience that some people will relish but many will simply hate.

Rex Dobson (Ryan Macquet) and Alice Edmonds (Claire Opperman) have escaped one of the most brutal serial killers in South Africa’s history. They are promptly interrogated by aggressive Detective James Hirsch (Michael Thompson) and each retells their stories, which blast onto the screen as vivid flashbacks.

Rex and Alice reveal they experienced their own separate horrors; chained to breezeblocks, battered around the face, stabbed, raped, brutalized. As the flashbacks mount and credibilities become questionable, Detective Hirsch begins to understand there is something more sinister to their stories…

Little more can be revealed about The Unforgiving’s plot, as it’s relatively thin and mostly involves Rex and Alice desperately evading a masked man and being questioned in an interminable police cell somewhere.

Positives first: the film is laced with suspicion and implied deceit, and coupled with Alastair Orr’s up-close crazed directional technique it creates a unique sense of claustrophobic panic and distress. It is genuinely disconcerting and disturbing, especially when the violence escalates. You will have never seen a movie like this.

Negatives second: right, let me get my list…

The Unforgiving is simply too erratic, jumpy, schizophrenic and confusing; the in-your-face directional style may be refreshing and intriguing at first, but it slowly becomes very annoying – you have no sense of space, place, time or character. The film is also populated with pointless “cut to blacks”, which then hang needlessly between scenes, and features an urgent attention-seeking soundtrack that destroys any chance of tension or surprise.

Orr’s script is also aggravatingly terrible. It tries so very hard to be cool and hip but nearly always fails. At one point Rex says “You’re the people that people go to when the shit hits the fan… and the fan’s fucking spinning” and Detective Hirsch actually has the audacity to say “…the clock face may tell you what time it is, but I think its time for you to start telling me the truth”. It is shudderingly bad.

Acting wise it is typical low budget stuff, with frustratingly unbelievable turns from Ryan Macquet and Claire Opperman, who are unlikeably aggressive and bizarrely dismissive. With a cast of only four, actor-shoulders need to be strong to lift it above mediocrity, and the film is practically supported by bit-part Craig Hawks and ridiculous detective Michael Thompson. Thompson is lumbered with a rude, dismissive, directionless, aggressive character but still manages to be remotely believable, which really proves his worth.

Film logic normally shoves reality out of the window, but The Unforgiving shoves it off a cliff; Rex has his face beaten against concrete, glass shoved into his foot, his kneecap drilled, his stomach stabbed twice and he still keeps going! It’s absolutely ridiculous. And he’s not the only one; another character is suffocated with a plastic bag… then comes back to life. It’s bizarre and confused.

Who’s here for blood?! Likened to the South African Saw, this gorefest fails to deliver enough brutal violence to fully satisfy the bloodthirsty horror hounds. There are many grim moments of light torture, but as the direction is so furiously wobbly it’s difficult to ascertain exactly what is happening… and the up close make-up is particularly embarrassing (purple bruising doesn’t crack, you fools!).

Despite being filmed uniquely and creating a sense of paranoid nausea throughout, The Unforgiving is essentially a one-trick pony, but sadly a plague-ridden, three legged pony that is very close to death. The trick is the twist, which despite being genuinely cunning is so ham-fistedly smacked together it confuses and dumbfounds. This was a missed opportunity for Orr to really impress.

Even at 74 minutes The Unforgiving outstays its welcome, stretching your patience and slowly tapping a headache into your brain. It is doubtful anyone could stomach watching this film for a second time, even with the knowledge of its twist.

The Unforgiving is a unique but incredibly flawed debut, and it might make you sick for all the wrong reasons. The Unforgiving is unrelenting and unlikeable.

Rating: ★★½☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

4 Comments on “The Unforgiving”

  1. Catherine says:

    I thought this film was ok. On IMDB it says it was made for $5k – that’s pretty decent

    • Scullion says:

      Hi Catherine,

      There is an on-going debate regarding minimal budget vs. quality of film. I feel if you’re unable to make a cogent, coherent, decent film with the budget you’re given, then don’t make it.

      This certainly goes for a film such as The Unforgiving, which is priced at £8.99 on HMV.com, for example. If you’re asking for 9 of my pounds, you need to provide 9 pounds of material. The Unforgiving did not do this.

      Budget constraints also don’t make people act worse or make the script suddenly become a horrible mess – you can have an superb script for a film budgeted on favours, chewing gum and hard work. Budget affects the technical details such as sound and film quality, but these certainly weren’t the major problems with The Unforgiving – everything else was.

      I’m glad you thought it was OK though, as every film ever made should have fanbase / understanding audience – I just wasn’t one of them.

  2. Catherine says:

    I see your point. Here’s their next low budget film – http://vimeo.com/24412418
    maybe this will be worth 9 pounds?

    • Scullion says:

      Certainly looks like it!

      Really well made trailer – sharp, brutal, bloody and with a decent score – let’s hope the script and acting matches the quality of the trailer.

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