Running Time: 88 mins
Director: David S. Goyer
Starring: Odette Yustman, Gary Oldman,
Casey Beldon (Yustman) goes toe-to-toe with a timeless evil who wants to be born again in order to rule the world. With David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, Man of Steel) behind the pen and camera alike, The Unborn has a level of pedigree and potential to it that in theory should raise it above the tired conventions of a well trodden narrative…should.
As a horror The Unborn resides on the same Sorority Row as One Missed Call and Mirrors with regards to styling, pacing and in some areas of the movie, set-pieces. Goyer’s script makes every effort to ground the subject matter in historical atrocities linking this evil to Nazi experimentation on twins during the second World War and the suicide of our leading ladies matriarch, played by Carla Gugino. The problem with this is the back-story is so much more interesting than the central narrative. Odette Yustman (now Annable) is a good actress but Gugino is better. The youngest boy from Malcolm in the Middle being a total creep-monger is a nice (if predictable) touch but true evil being awoke and called to by the actions of Nazi Doctors is better not to mention less worn than pretty young babysitter gets targeted by terrible spirit. So much of The Unborn is recycled that almost every scene falls a little flat. It’s all just a little tired and predictable, right down to the token sassy black friend. When does tired stereotyping become racist? Give it some thought.
Yustman carries the film well enough, she’s not given a great deal to do other than run around spreading exposition amongst the supporting characters. Cam Gigandet (I’m still not convinced this humanoid can act) offers up the stock unconvincing, underdeveloped boyfriend, his greatest accomplishment being the unbelievable lack of chemistry with his tres pretty on-screen girlfriend. Gary Oldman barely touches second gear and in doing so is the finest performance of the movie. Idris Elba gives a three minute turn that’s pretty decent and I’m still wondering how Carla Gugino agreed to pop up solely in flashback form but it’s a testiment to Oldman’s supreme ability that he can step into shot and outshine all around him who are trying so hard.
News isn’t all bad. There are some nice touches in The Unborn. The retirement home human-spider sequence is well executed (even if it has been done before) and the dogs with the upside-down heads are hideously excellent but you expect more from Goyer, especially as his name carries so much weight in Hollywood these days.
If you’re going to make a horror movie that deals exclusively in tried and tested narrative plot points you had better come up with a new way of coming at them. The Unborn is, sadly, little more than a scrapbook movie collecting all of the film-makers favourite bits from the movies that had the greatest influence on them. Not a bad place to start if you’ve never seen a horror before but everyone else had better have some knitting to do otherwise those eighty-eight minutes are going to feel as long as entire eight picture horror franchise.