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die hard is a xmas movie | by maryann johanson

The Unborn (review)

Fatal Position

There’s something to be said for a movie that’s still making you laugh days after you saw it. It’s probably better if that movie was a comedy, but you can’t dismiss the entertainment value you get out of a good bad horror movie that prompts snorts of derision and head shakes of mystified wonderment at random moments a week later. Like when you’re brushing your teeth in the morning and you glance into the mirror and you suddenly find yourself exhaling toothpaste out your nose as you think: Haunted medicine cabinet? Really? Someone thought that would be scary?

There’s a haunted medicine cabinet in The Unborn.
It’s hilarious, and it’s sort of awesome, too, in that no-they-didn’t kind of way, how writer-director David S. Goyer works in the ridiculousness of the haunted medicine cabinet mostly as an excuse to have his heroine, Casey Beldon (Odette Yustman: Cloverfield) walk into the bathroom in her extremely skimpy underwear to explore the odd sounds coming from the medicine cabinet, pirouette around the bathroom in her extremely skimpy underwear as she finds nothing, pirouette again as that strange knocking sounds again and she is forced to show off her extremely skimpy underwear for us again.

You have to admire Goyer’s complete lack of shame not just in this instance but pretty much throughout The Unborn, from how he borrows cast (Gary Oldman) and, it would appear, some leftover un-CGIed second-unit footage of Chicago from The Dark Knight (of which he was one of the writers) to how he desperately shovels in every crazy-ass bit of nonsense he can find in an attempt to give his “horror” movie something that pretends to resemble substance.

I mean, remember how horror movies used to be scary because they were rooted in something that people actually do have visceral fears of? So here, in what’s supposed to be a horror movie about Casey’s unborn twin — he died in utero — coming back to haunt her, you might expect that, perhaps, Casey is dealing with some hangups of her own related to pregnancy (which would, naturally, tie into the primal unease a lot of people associate with pregnancy, even people who are happy to be pregnant and want children — it’s just something we weirdly wired for, like a fear monsters under the bed that aren’t there).

But no: Goyer (Jumper, Batman Begins) just throws in random haunted medicine cabinets and bizarre and obviously discredited old wives’ tales about how newborns shouldn’t see their own reflection in a mirror before they’re a year old, or they’ll die. (Fisher Price wouldn’t sell a single crib toy if people still gave any credence to this.) He tosses in odd portents regarding lost gloves on jogging tracks in wintertime, as if this were something unusual, and tries to make things scary that simply aren’t, like when you — or Casey — are babysitting and one of the kids you’re watching gets up and starts walking around. You know: not scary in the least.

And Goyer does something that, if we’re fair to him, we really need to work hard to coin a phrase off of. As Casey investigates why she is being haunted in a such a completely ineffective way, Goyer takes it to Auschwitz. (I think that’s what we’ll call it: “taking it to Auschwitz.”) I mean this literally, in the same way that Happy Days jumped the shark when the Fonz jumped over a tank of sharks on his motorcycle.

It’s hilarious, and kind of awesome, in a “Hey, who let the Nazis in movie?” kind of way.

Everything after that is pure goofy gravy. Poor Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) shows up as a rabbi who will perform an exorcism on Casey, and we meet him when Casey steals a rare old book of Jewish lore from a library (which, frankly, means to me that she deserves whatever she gets, stealing a priceless old book like that). And she introduces herself by promising him, a total stranger, that she’s not crazy, and oh, hey, would he translate this rare old Jewish book for her. And he’s totally on board with that, because what else could he possibly have to do?

But the best — well, maybe second best after taking it to Auschwitz — is the “scary” one-liner: “Jumby wants to be born now.”

Jumby.

Hilarious. And awesome. Not really in a good way, but still.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, disturbing images, thematic material and language including some sexual references

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine

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