David S. Goyer
Odette Yustman - Casey Beldon
Gary Oldman - Rabbi Josef Sendak
Meagan Good - Romey
Cam Gigandet - Mark Hardigan
Idris Elba - Arthur Wyndham
James Remar - Gordon Beldon
Jane Alexander - Sofi Kozma
Ethan Cutkosky - Barto/Jumby
Carla Gugino - Janet Beldon
Genre - Horror/Supernatural
Running Time - 88 Minutes
Score - 2 Howls Outta 4
Twins have creeped out movie audiences for many years now. From those two girls standing in the hallway in THE SHINING, to Margot Kidder's incredible performance in SISTERS, to Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in TWINS, and to Mary-Kate and Ashley in any horrible film they're in - seeing two identical beings with very different characteristics from each other yet being able to switch identities on you at any time give many of us the willies. But why? Is it because the thought of having a double takes away our self-identity? Does it awaken fears of our own mortality and how someone else could just take our place if something happens? Or is it because it'll lead to a mediocre horror film like THE UNBORN?
Nah, it's definitely Devito and Schwarzenegger as twins. Knowing that The Penguin and Mr. Freeze are related gives me nightmares...
Casey Beldon (Odette Yustman, who has a GREAT ASS) lives with her father (James Remar) and goes to college. Even though her life seems normal and content on the surface, Casey is dealing with years of knowing that her mentally institutionalized mother (Carla Gugino) killed herself over reasons Casey is unable to really understand. Not only that, but Casey starts having dreams and visions of a really creepy kid (Ethan Cutkosky) who apparently wants to be born. Through her visions, seeing this kid in every mirror she encounters, and noticing that her eyes are developing a discoloration of some sort, Casey learns that she was really born a twin but he died in the womb. Casey suspects this creepy kid to be the demonic spirit of her dead twin brother, who's haunting her as a way to enter the living realm. Getting help from a skeptical Rabbi named Josef Sendak (Gary Oldman) and her boyfriend, Mark (Cam Gigandet), Casey starts unraveling the secrets of this kid and plan an exorcism in order to get rid of him.
THE UNBORN is another in the line of films that holds really interesting concepts and ideas, yet doesn't seem to figure out how to really execute them in a manner that will hold up interest. There's just too much going on and not enough is explained fully for us to really care about. It's pretty sad since writer David S. Goyer is a very good screenwriter and could have really created a very good supernatural film that would be talked for years to come. Instead, THE UNBORN falls flat and ends up straddling that line of mediocrity.
The story by David S. Goyer is generic, even though it shouldn't have been. Instead of really going for something original and out of the box that could make it stand out from other horror films, Goyer instead tries to create an original story based on the flawed Americanized Asian horror remakes. For example, the Barto/Jumby [the creepy boy] could have been a really scary character. Instead, he pops in and out like any of those creepy kids in THE RING, THE GRUDGE, ONE MISSED CALL, etc. It's a missed opportunity. Also, his character really isn't explained enough for us to care about his motives. Yes, he was a victim of Nazi experimentation on genetics and that's a horrible situation. But other than that, what else is there to him? Suddenly after his death, some evil possessed him and he's been trying to be born through his family's descendants. Why? I understand the explanation of the whole Dybbuk thing, but this sub-plot needed more layering. Hell, I was never even sure if this kid was really Casey's dead twin or her grandma's murdered twin. Were they one and the same?
I also appreciated the use of Jewish mysticism, as it gave THE UNBORN a fresh perspective that wasn't totally Christian/Catholic. There were some interesting things about how their exorcisms are different from a Christian one. Plus the main text used to get rid of Barto/Jumby had some cool information as well. But they're not used in their full potential. What makes THE EXORCIST so damn scary is that we see the practice of exorcism and we see the consequences of this practice without it being dumbed down so we could understand it. It builds and builds and we're fascinated by what's going on. In THE UNBORN, it's just a tool to make us jump whenever something freaky would happen. It's never really explained and it seems tacked on just so there could be a really thrilling conclusion. I understand the film isn't about exorcisms, but since it ended up being an important tool to stop this demon, it should have been explored a bit more.
The characters should have been more developed as well. Casey, Rabbi Sendak, and even Sofi Kozma are fleshed out a bit through their various actions and flashbacks, but everyone else is pretty much cardboard. Hell, the Nazis had more character development than Romey, Casey's best friend who appeared to be interested in mysticism, and Mark, Casey's hunky boyfriend. Hell, Romey didn't even know if she was a skeptic or not most of the time. Did she believe or not? Make up your damn mind! And Mark was pretty much the token supportive boyfriend. These two characters could have added something to the narrative but Goyer didn't bother to. This isn't like a slasher flick. All the characters here should have been developed, even if they had to be victims. Would have made us care more.
I also gotta say - the PG-13 rating ruined THE UNBORN. Where were the kills? Where was the blood? Hell, for a "disturbing" concept, I wasn't at all disturbed by anything. Well maybe by the shoddy dialogue at times, but C'MON!! Give me something here. All these off-screen kills just made me frown. And I watched the UNRATED version of the film. Very disappointed.
I will say THE UNBORN was a beautiful film visually. David S. Goyer isn't much of a director at times but I think this was his best directorial work. While he didn't bring anything new to the table, at least there was a lot of style and atmosphere used for the film. From seeing dogs with upside-down heads, to an old dude crawling like a spider and spinning his head, to bugs in bathrooms, to the whole exorcism sequence, I thought Goyer did a nice job. Plus the cinematography was gorgeous and clear. And I liked the aerial shots and the use of really eerie exterior shots. Goyer brings us a film that's easy on the eyes. I just wish he had focused more on the written portion of the film and given it as much care as he did the visuals.
The acting was more than decent here. Odette Yustman with the GREAT ASS, who is probably best known for CLOVERFIELD and her younger days in KINDERGARTEN COP, did her thing and looked hot doing it. I bought her emotional scenes and her desperation to stop Barto/Jumby from possessing her in order to be born. The dialogue didn't help reach her full potential but she made the most of it. Gary Oldman cashed his check well, performing above what he should have in a film that is obviously beneath his talents. He's a great actor in whatever he's in and THE UNBORN is no exception. Meagan Good played the token best friend again and she did it well. I never want to hear her say the word "dude" anymore though. She tired me out with that shit. Idris Elba, James Remar, and Jane Alexander did what they could in their limited roles. Cam Gigandet, from NEVER BACK DOWN and TWILIGHT, didn't have much of a part but he did what he could with it. And Carla Gugino needs a new agent. What is up with this talented woman picking really meaningless roles?
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE NEVER WANTING JUMBY TO BE BORN...NOW OR EVER
- The creepy little boy on the road turned into a dog wearing an upside down mask. I don't know what this means but I suspect that this son of a bitch is hiding something...
- Dogs are messengers of the dead. So I guess if one humps my leg, like Crispin Glover, I'm a dead fuck. Great...
- Casey keeps seeing a creepy kid inside and behind her mirror. I don't get why she freaked. She should be asking him to change his ways....
- Don't go to a social event with Odette Yustman. She'll poop on your fun time with her visions of her dead twin and disgusting bugs. Or you'll end up dead trying to save her during a huge monster attack in New York City. Neither one is worth it, even if she does have a GREAT ASS.
- Casey had to destroy all mirrors in order to keep the evil spirit away. So even if she does eliminate this evil, she'll still have more years of bad luck that she wouldn't have had before. Great freakin' idea!!
- Another creepy little kid stabbed Romey in the gut. No only is this kid related to the Myers family, but Meagan sure wasn't Good enough to survive another horror flick. After that ONE MISSED CALL, she should've SAW that coming!
- Beware of performing exorcisms. You'll bend yourself backwards to participate. Literally.
- The possessed priest beat up Cam Gigandet. For a vampire who trained in MMA fighting while living in The O.C., I expected better from him.
THE FINAL HOWL
THE UNBORN could have been a great film with its really cool premise and slick look and direction. But it held back on the violence it needed to be effective and the story was stale and confusing. Still, it's not a bad time waster and THE UNBORN is a decent rental. No more. No less. Stick with THE EXORCIST or even THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE for your demon possession fix.
As for Odette Yustman, Mr. Pacino will back me up on this: