Why do people keep moving into houses where dark, disturbing events happened in the past? You’d think they’d learn by now – but no – the temptation of cheap real estate prevails despite the walls bleeding, or the sounds of children screaming emanating from the water closet.
THE UNSPOKEN is the next supernatural thriller in line to eat up those Halloween dollars, and begins with the age old set up. Some really nasty things happen in a house, a family disappears, and twenty years later, an unsuspecting, naive bunch of maroons move in. In this case, it’s a mother and (fulfilling cliche expectations) her creepy mute child. Local girl Angela is tasked with babysitting said creepy child, much to the chagrin of her father who doesn’t want her going anywhere near the place, since… well, you know…hauntings and all that jazz.
You might be wondering, what’s the deal with all the sound effects? Well, THE UNSPOKENbarely gets into its plot before it lays heavily into the jump scares. This film has jump scares up the wazoo. If you played a drinking game and sipped every time someone appeared behind the heroine unexpectedly, or a door slammed, or a cat jumped out of nowhere, you’d be hospitalized before the second act.
The jump scares come so thick and so fast that you quickly become inured to them. In fact, you wonder why the people inside the film are still jumping after the third or fourth loud sound in under a minute. In one segment, the main character is slowly creeping through a house and investigating (she does this a lot) when there’s a loud, unexplained bang, then something falls on the floor, then, there’s a child standing behind her, and when she tries to leave, there’s someone standing at the door with a gun. There must be a point when someone reaches “peak startled”.
Every single one of these “scares” is accompanied by a loud, bassy boom and an obnoxious squeal of a string instrument. The pacing of the jumps is way off, and as a result, the tension is sucked out of the film. All the regular haunted house gags are wheeled out and beaten into the ground, i.e. a toy rolling out of a closet, doors opening when they shouldn’t, etc. There’s not much to get excited about, except for one immensely gory practical effect that comes out of nowhere and feels completely incongruous with the rest of the proceedings.
The cast is populated with people who are more than just a little Canadian (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and nobody is given much to work with. There’s a tacked on romance between the main character and another girl that is there just for the sake of it, and there’s a revelation at the end that’ll make you scratch your head so hard you’ll wonder if you’ve developed a nasty case of psoriasis.
There’s one scene that had some potential where there’s a home invasion in the haunted house. I’m not sure if it’s been done, but I’d watch an entire film based on that concept. Crossing the two sub-genres could result in something great, if executed properly. Unfortunately it’s relegated to a small vignette here.
As a disclaimer, the screener copy I watched was as pixelated as dial-up pornography, so some finer points of the visual presentation may have been lost. Maybe. It’s not a poorly made film, but the lack of character, originality and the botched building of tension makes it difficult to recommend to even the most ardent fans of supernatural cinema. And don’t worry, I’ll spare you of any puns like “some things are better left unspoken”.
THE UNSPOKEN is in theaters at Cinema Village (New York), Noho 7 (Los Angeles) and regional territories including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, Orlando and more as well as on Digital HD. It will be available on DVD December 6, 2016 from Anchor Bay Entertainment.