Unborn, The (US - BD)
Gabe counts one, two, three strikes, and David Goyer's directing career is out...
Casey Beldon (Odette Yustman) is plagued by nightmare visions of masked dogs, and an evil child with bright blue eyes. After a particularly harrowing experience babysitting, Casey begins to develop a growing discoloured spot in her eye. Her doctor tells her it’s nothing to worry about, but confides that the symptom is usually one only applicable to twins. After a little research Casey discovers that her mother had been pregnant with twins, but her unborn brother died in the womb. At first it appears that she’s being haunted by the dead baby’s ghost, but a little more research reveals a twisted family history trailing all the way back to the Nazi concentration camps of WWII.
The Unborn writer/director David Goyer apparently thinks his audience is made up of romantic comedy obsessed shut-ins who have never seen a horror movie or read a horror story in their seemingly short lives. He presents them with a bunch of has-been ideas and overused clichés and his musical cues mark them as ‘terrifying’. Big bugs, pale faced children, loud dogs, slow motion flashbacks, images appearing in mirrors, ghostly photos, creepy old people, grainy 8mm home movies, distorted faces, and slime all make appearances in a somewhat pathetic plea for attention. What little Goyer does right here is to exploit the base human aversion to uncanny grotesquery in order to illicit at least minor fearful responses out of a limited PG-13 rating (there’s nothing in the ‘unrated’ version that I’d call R-rated). Some of the creature designs, which owe an obvious debt to Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, are genuinely upsetting, assuming Goyer reveals them in brief glimpses. Still, even when he’s successful, Goyer is mostly riffing on melodies already played by better directors.
For a guy that started his career as an in-demand screenwriter, Goyer isn’t exactly adept concerning his dialogue (especially this film’s insipid ‘girl talk’), and has a self-destructive tendency to over edit, removing a lot of minor, yet necessary plot fodder, like time passage (day to night to day to night to next week is a problem). He’s got a great eye and ear for adaptation, which is why his largely re-written work on the Blade and (new) Batman series warrants mention of his name on the marquee. In this case the Dybbuk stuff and the Holocaust stuff is interesting, and relatively untapped, especially in the mainstream. In the hands of a better writer/director it may have rocked our socks off. As it stands the script is by the numbers ghost story stuff. Perhaps Goyer should seek work as a producer, or ‘idea man’.
There isn’t a lot to report concerning this 1080p 2.40:1 transfer. The print is noisy-ish during really low-lit scenes, but is relatively clean concerning grain. The pallet is mostly natural, with a slight desaturation due to the snowy winter setting. Contrast is not extreme save a few stylized flashbacks, and gradations are impressively even, especially the softly lit skin tones. There are a few poppy colours here and there, but Goyer mostly goes for a realistic and evenly cool look throughout. Details aren’t really an issue considering all the use of darkness, but the clarity is thankfully justified, as a lesser quality image would lack any discernable action during the super darkest moments. Blacks are perfectly rich, and set well against the slightly desaturated colours, though the increased sharpness occasionally leads to minor artefacts like edge enhancement.
There also isn’t a lot to report concerning this perfectly adequate DTS-HD Master Audio track. On the whole the sound is a little lower than expected. Dialogue is a little inconsistent volume-wise, but is otherwise clear and centred on the track. Really big audio cues, like stab scares, are full-bodied from top to bottom, bass to treble, but less important production audio is reasonably thin, save a deep and aggressive bass track. A good example of this is the lack of sound during a club scene, where the familiar ‘ompa ompa’ of the techno music is not particularly loud. The exorcism scene is a pretty thrilling sequence from an aural standpoint, featuring a lot of neat stereo and surround effects, and some dynamic volume levels.
The only extra on the disc is a selection of deleted scenes, presented as a single reel (06:30, HD). Considering the film’s disjointed nature I half expected these scenes to serve some kind of narrative purpose, but mostly they consist of entirely unneeded in-betweens that would’ve slowed the pacing. Apparently Goyer just writes overcut scripts.
I’m counting this as strike three against David Goyer’s brief studio directing career. Following the uniformly mishandled Blade Trinity, and the unbearably boring The Invisible, this uneven supernatural thriller fails to connect. The editing is awkward; the story’s few shining beacons of novelty are overrun with awkward dialogue and over-used scares. The Blu-ray looks great, and features a few expressive audio moments, but extras are minimal, including only a few deleted scenes.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 7th July 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Spanish, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 French
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Unrated and PG-13 Versions, Deleted Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: David S. Goyer
Cast: Odette Yustman, Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino
Length: 87 minutes
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