David S. Goyer had written the first two “Blade” films and co-wrote “Batman Begins” with Christopher Nolan so I excused him for his lackluster directorial efforts in “Blade Trinity” and “the Invisible”. Now that was before I found out that Goyer is also responsible for the script in “Kickboxer 2: the Road Back“. Certainly, one wouldn’t be hard-pressed to think that Goyer is a either a hit or a miss after his less than stellar resume. He has written and directed his latest horror film “The UNBORN”, and once again, I wonder as to what happened to the talent displayed in the first two “Blade” films?
Casey (sexy Odette Yustman) is experiencing several bizarre and unsettling dreams. What’s more casey had began to experience hallucinations and she had come to believe that a child named “jumby” is a guise for a demonic force called the ‘Dyubbuk’ and that malevolent spirit is after her. Casey traces the cause of the visions through the clues left behind by her dead mother (Carla Gugino) and had found that she is also the grandchild of a holocaust survivor, Sofi (Jane Alexander). Sofi had experienced unfathomable experiences as a child during the holocaust and she believes that the ‘Dyubbuk’ is after Casey. The demonic force slowly becomes more powerful as people around Casey begin to die. Now it is up to her along with her boyfriend (Cam Gigandet) to seek the help of Rabbi Sendak (Gary Oldman) to exorcise the ‘dyubbuk’ and send it back to where it belongs….
“The Unborn” could have easily been mistaken for a remake of an Asian horror film; a creepy child--check, a pale-faced ghost--check, a family curse--check, a malevolent spirit--check. Yes, “The Unborn” has all the makings of a simple ghost story and David Goyer does try to go for a different route and adds several elements of Jewish mysticism such as the Kabbalah, family curses and even Nazi experimentation. The film does attempt to cover a lot of ground, that results in the film becoming a little too unfocused. Goyer’s skills as a director isn’t finely honed enough to pull off such an ambition and he is left a little lost within his own writing. I do commend the fact that Hollywood horror has tried to do something different in the film, rather than resorting to another remake; it also attempts to bring certain exorcism procedures into exposition than resorting to the usual Catholic overtones.
The problems with “The Unborn” are the fact that it throws in too many ideas but never really uses one as its central theme. What results is a screenplay full of gaping plot holes and too many variables that barely gets fleshed out. It also shows Casey trying to battle the forces of evil that feels like a minor genre implementation that ends up with the script becoming convoluted. It’s not that the film made no effort to explain everything, it actually does but it ends up spending too much time trying to make sense of each of its plot elements that the film loses any of the ‘creep-out’ touches it may have achieved.
The film is also co-produced by Michael Bay so expect a very visual experience that is a rehearsed practice of cheap and “jump” scares. The special effects do look very good and the film itself looks very pretty. There are a number of freaky images such as an old man crawling around distorting his own body, facial features are changed into something more feral and scary, convulsions and creepy mirrors--the film does have its moments, but the problem is the scare factor feels a little too cheap. The film suffers from visual overload, it is loud (not in a literary sense) with too much style that it forgot to become scary. Characterization is also a little too weak, and the viewer would have no time to get attached to its characters. Some may like the “in-your-face-no-nonsense” type of storytelling, but in a horror film, caring for the characters is essential. Goyer forgot to make the audience settle into his screenplay.
Goyer also leaves some grand behavioral missteps as with the character of Casey’s friend Romy (Meagan Good); for someone who talks about believing in the occult, she sure spends an awful lot of time trying to convince Casey otherwise. He also leaves the subplot with Casey’s child-stalker hanging out to dry and Casey’s dad is curiously nowhere to be found amid the entire crisis (a simple phone call would’ve sufficed). Instead, the direction obsesses in showing a pale-faced deformed dog, more visual
nightmares and an upside down senior citizen than developing the script. The acting is also a mixed bag and given the little elements the cast had to work with, I can‘t really judge their acting abilities. Although I really liked the sight of Odette Yustman in her small shirt and panties, plus I did somewhat enjoy the fact that Gary Oldman managed to kick some dyubbuk butt.
“The Unborn” throws in so much substance than it actually really needs. It resulted with the storytelling becoming a little too convoluted and the special effects just taking over its entirety that it felt very superficial. While it does have some freaky images, they were all pretty routine and it offers nothing methodical that may make a scene really stand out--it all seems like a rehearsed exercise. The film is a grand exhibit of too much style and substance that never went anywhere. But I am pretty sure that “The Unborn” may find an audience, but hardcore horror fans are better off staying away. At least, Odette Yustman is very hot.