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1 out of 5 stars
Title: The Unborn
Cast: Odette Yustman, Gary Oldman, Meagan Good, Cam Gigandet, Jane Alexander, C.S. Lee, James Remar
Director: David S. Goyer
Released: Jan. 9, 2009
Running Length: 87 minutes
MPAA Classification: PG-13 (Violence, Sexual Situations)
A good scary movie makes the audience shiver with the thought of "what if?" The Unborn makes the audience giggle with the thought of "whatever!"
Sorry, but if the story isn't remotely believable, don't waste film trying too hard to explain it.
The Unborn starts off OK, as pretty, young Casey Beldon (played by 23-year-old Odette Yustman) feels a presence as she goes for a run. She turns and sees a creepy, zombie-like little boy standing in the middle of the road. And he certainly is creepy -- think of a decaying Amy Winehouse.
Casey winds up in the woods, where she finds a slightly buried, jarred fetus, which, of course, opens its eyes on a close-up camera shot. Go ahead, chuckle.
After she wakes up from this eerie nightmare, she starts to see the boy more often, as well as random creepy crawlers. When one of her eyes starts to change from brown to blue, a doctor (C.S. Lee of the awesome TV show "Dexter") tells her about DNA mixing among twins in the uteris. She's not aware of having had a twin, but when she talks to her dad (James Remar, also from "Dexter"), he informs her that she did have a twin brother who died before he was born. Oops, did I forget to give you that message?
From there, the typical horror formula begins: Something scary is trying to get me. What is it? Oh, thank goodness I've happened to come in contact with the only wise old person in the world who knows exactly what's happening to me. Time to try and get rid of the evil. How about an exorcism?
Casey talks to an old woman, whom she later learns is her granny. It turns out this thing has haunted their family for generations. According to granny, the evil spirit first took over her brother's body when they were little kids locked in Auschwitz during World War II. Blame the spirit's arrival on the Nazis and their experiments, she says.
Next, Casey goes to a man named Rabbi Sendak (Gary Oldman) for more answers. He tells her the Jewish folklore of something called the dybbuk -- a wandering spirit that inhabits people. She tells him that the dybbuk is messing with her, and she needs an exorcism.
Questions she doesn't ask: Why has the dybbuk apparently taken over her unborn brother? What does it even want? It can take over whoever it wants, and it does during the exorcism scene, so why does it always want to possess puny little children or fetuses instead of strong bodies it can cause some damage with? Why does it only want to bother her family line?
We never find out. Answering the relevant questions would just be silly, wouldn't it?
And I'm sorry, but when Rabbi Sendak tells her the chilling qualities of the spirit, I kept wishing there was a scarier sounding name for it. You try making the word "dybbuk" sound frightening. The dybbuky monster? Sounds like something from Sesame Street.
Oldman couldn't do it any more justice, and having played Sirius Black in Harry Potter and James Gordon in The Dark Knight, he's the most accomplished actor in the film.
That's another laughable quality of the film - the acting. As the main character, Yustman is nothing more than eye candy. For somebody who is on camera more than anybody else, you'd think the practice would help, but her acting skills are far scarier than the movie ever is.
If for anything, she'll be remembered for two things -- for looking like Megan Fox's younger sister, and for the scenes in which she walks around in her underwear. Heck, the underwear shot is on some of the movie posters. I guess the script wouldn't be following the simple horror formula if it didn't show some skin.
It's completely predictable like that. There's nothing new, and that's fine. These types of movies keep getting made because the audience knows what they're getting -- the foreseeable, yet effective, "Boo! Gotcha!" moments that make everyone jump.
The problem with The Unborn is that it screws up by taking too much time to try (keyword=try) to explain everything that's happening, preventing any fear and anxiety from fully building to its potential, and keeping the movie from actually being scary.
If you've wanted to watch a good scary movie lately, but you've been waiting for the right one to hit theaters, here's some advice:
Wait a little longer.