Amidst the tide of remakes, ‘Torture Porn’, and found-footage horror in the 2000’s, demonic possession movies made a quiet comeback. Yes, there was the surprisingly successful The Exorcism of Emily Rose. And then Hollywood took a couple stabs at resurrecting The Exorcist franchise. Somewhere in between we got some generic efforts like Lost Souls, The Order, and one from Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes’ studio – The Unborn. Recall that Platinum Dunes was the same studio that produced the Texas Chainsaw, Friday the 13th, The Hitcher, and Amityville Horror remakes. Though it’s not a remake, The Unborn is possessed by a generic storyline. Simply put, it’s a story that could just have easily been lifted from any one of a dozen demonic possession movies.
Strange visions of a ghostly child have been plaguing Casey Beldon. While babysitting next door, one of the children ominously warns her that ‘Jumy wants to be born’. As the visions worsen, Casey learns she had an unborn twin who died in her mother’s womb. Her parents already has a nickname for him – ‘Jumby’. Desperate and afraid, Casey learns that a dybbuk – a demon – is tormenting her through the spirt of her unborn twin. To prevent the dybbuk from entering our world, Casey turns to a rabbi for protection.
The Unborn Forgot One Important Thing – To Be Scary
So The Unborn suffers from a big problem – it’s not scary. No, it’s not even a little scary. And the blame shouldn’t be hung on the movie’s PG-13 rating. Take a quick scan of some of the better horror from the last decade or so. Many of those movies were PG-13. Instead, writer and director David S Goyer bares most of the responsibility. As a writer, Goyer’s fingerprints are all over some great movies. From Dark City to the Blade trilogy to Batman Begins, Goyer’s no slouch. But his limited directing experience, which includes the disappointing Blade: Trinity, is a little telling.
The Unborn is almost entirely reliant on these jump scars.
While The Unborn is competently filmed and looks good, it’s completely empty on scares, suspense, and tension. Goyer doesn’t just lean heavily on jump scares. The Unborn is almost entirely reliant on these jumps. Few of these scares ever hit their mark. And when it’s not employing these cheap jolts, The Unborn seems committed to the idea that cranking sound effects really loud equates with being scary. Goyer’s climactic exorcism substitutes the atmospheric dread of The Exorcist with over-the-top silliness. It’s a jam-packed finale that’s unlikely to affect audiences aside from waiting for it to end.
The Undead Suffers From Recycled Screenplay
What’s most surprising about The Unborn is its uninspiring, generic story. Goyer has amassed an impressive list of writing credits. Unfortunately, it’s swing-and-a-miss on this effort. Aside from The Unborn’s reference to Jewish demons, it’s pretty much every demonic possession movie you’ve seen. Stephen King fans may even see some loose parallels to his The Dark Half novel. One gets the impression that Goyer spent a weekend rifling through possession movies while taking notes. Inevitably, what’s put on screen feels more like a bunch of ideas that sounded ‘cool’ than a true story.
Gary Oldman Collects a Paycheque for This ‘Not-So-Scary’ Possession Flick
Typically, PG-13 horror movies assemble a cast of attractive ‘up-and-comer’s’ for maximum appeal to that teen base. After all, isn’t that why the CW Network existed? Yet somehow The Unborn lured not only Idris Elba, but Gary Oldman as well. Elba is alway good and Oldman kind of looks bored for his limited time on screen. Neither actor plays enough of a role in the movie to elevate things in any way.
…Oldman kind of looks bored for his limited time on screen.
As for the movie’s young cast at the heart of the story, they panic, scream, and run as required. Odette Annable, playing Casey, is a rather unremarkable protagonist. She’s since moved on to better things in the Supergirl television series. But in The Unborn, Goyer gives her little to do but look perplexed, scared, and scream. Cam Gigandet and Megan Good, as boyfriend and best friend respectively, look good and recite their lines with enough convictions. But like Annable’s ‘Casey’, The Unborn doesn’t ask much of them.
Exorcise The Unborn From Your Viewing Schedule
To be fair, The Unborn isn’t a classically bad movie. As mentioned above, Goyer knows how to film a story with regards to the basic technical aspects. Rather The Unborn is just an unremarkable entry to the demonic possession subgenre. The movie feels more like a ‘to-do’ checklist than an organic story. Throw in the lack of scares and thrills, and The Unborn is the kind of movie you could do your laundry while watching and not miss much.