Motherless teenager Casey Beldon (Odette Yustman) has a cross to bear, a burden to shoulder, and a hard row to hoe in The Unborn, a frenzied sextuplet of horror cliché that borrows heavily and heartily from Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, Devil Dog: Hound of Hell, The Omen, Forgiving Dr. Mengele, and Flatliners. Well, I guess there's more than six I can name, because as I watched I also thought of scenes from Sisters, Mirrors, A Clockwork Orange, and… well, I could go on and on but why spoil the fun?
Although the filmmakers insist The Unborn isn't a comedy, I honestly don't see how its insanely over the top story and zany, in-your-face visuals could possibly be taken seriously. I laughed a lot. That's not to say the visuals aren't awesome, because they are. I mean, in what other movie can you see: A dog with an upside-down head, a zombified Damien doppelganger getting body-slammed by a sedan in suburbia, a broken-bodied human spider dashing upstairs, and a young woman peering through a gory glory hole in a bathroom stall?
And let's not forget the 40s flashback to bizarre Nazi medical experimentation where needles meet eyeballs in a most freaky fashion, or the climactic scene in which a teenage girl is restrained and has a ball-gag in her mouth while Gary Oldman blows a long, twisted, totally phallic bedazzled horn in order to summon the Devil. I'm telling you, somewhere Sigmund Freud is trying to figure out how he can come back from the dead just so he can analyze The Unborn!
Casey is a cute brunet dating a cute blonde (Cam Gigandet). She's got a cute best friend (Meagan Good), and a cute little wardrobe (mostly underwear). Everything's just adorable until she begins to have horrible, terrifying nightmares involving her mother's suicide and something else… a part of her that's missing? An evil twin? A ghost… succubus… demon? Nope — it's a destructive, deadly dybbuk (look it up).
When these blood-drenched visions begin to manifest themselves during her waking hours (bright red venom pouring from water faucets, fiendish pale-eyed boys popping out of nowhere, contortionist canines, and so on), Casey decides it's time to consult the experts: And that means spiritual advisors.
Rabbi Sendak (Oldman) is skeptical at first but when wild and wicked things start coming his way too, he's a believer. He teams up with Father Wyndham (Idris Elba), and with Casey and her friends joining the fray, the supernatural smack-down is ON! This is easier said than done. The source of Casey's family curse dates back to the death camps of der Führer's Germany, and as one of her elderly relatives says (something to the effect of), "The entire undoing of this ancient evil curse rests entirely on you now, Casey." Uh, no pressure there!
While for me, personally, the movie has far too many things going on for it to be singularly scary (or even otherwise creepy), it's entertaining enough and the cinematography and CGI are both excellent, bolstering the proceedings considerably. The real-life locations and well-adorned sets are atmospheric, which adds a touch of weight to the overly extreme story. Plus — in spite of little screen time for Oldman and even less for Elba — I like all the actors, and that never hurts.
Although I didn't the find The Unborn frightening, suspenseful or plausible, I still recommend it if you just want to check out an all-out, no-holds-barred horror movie with evil-galore on the big screen. It's fun.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
Read our interview with David S. Goyer
Read our interview with Odette Yustman
Read our interview with Brad Fuller and Andrew Form