January 15, 2009

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The Unborn (PG-13)
A creepy pale-and-veiny-faced child haunts an easily frightened and often semi-clothed college-ish-aged girl in The Unborn, an unintentionally chuckle-inducing horror movie.

Casey (Odette Yustman) is having horrible terrible dreams about hideous and frightening things. Or, well, the movie’s score tells us her dreams are horrible and frightening. Mostly, her dreams are about a kid’s blue mitten, a creepy-looking dog and a fetus in a jar that, at just the right minute, opens its eyes to look at her. “Boo!” says the score. “Ack!” say the teenage girls sitting near me in the theater. “Blah. Move it along, horror movie” says the jaded critic.

But creepy things aren’t just happening to Casey when she’s asleep. When she’s awake strange things have her jumping at every turn — sometimes the mirror in her bathroom rattles with the rattle of pure evil, sometimes she thinks she sees a pale-and-veiny-faced young boy in that and other mirrors and, in one case, a neighbor boy roughly the same age as young veiny face stabs her in the head with a shard of mirror.

OK, I’ll give you that that last one really is creepy. (Though, also, it is really funny.)

For reasons that are too tedious to fully explain, all this spookiness leads Casey to Sofi (Jane Alexander), a woman who eventually explains that she’s being haunted by a scary demon thing from the “other side” that has been haunting Casey’s family since it first found Sofi in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany.

I’ll skip, for the sake of time, the tsk-tsk of why it’s cheap to use real world evil to fancy up lame horror-movie evil and jump right to the fact that this movie, despite the giving-its-all score, isn’t the least little bit scary. (And, really, the score here deserves a raise and a day off. The Unborn doesn’t have one actual minute of suspense in it but the score keeps chugging right along, building to a frenzy right before the moments when the movie unsuccessfully tries to make us jump. “Dun Dun DUN!” says the score. “Yawn” says the critic.)

The movie also doesn’t make any sense. As the tale unfolds, we learn that Lil’ Mr. Veiny is specifically seeking to possess Casey and possibly tried to possess her mother (who, like all good horror movie mothers, killed herself in a spooky insane asylum years earlier). But in addition to the neighbor child who attacks Casey, Veiny seems to possess at least five other people. Why bother with Casey? Veiny has, on plenty of occasions, a perfectly serviceable body with which he could wreak whatever havoc his ashen little evil self could devise. And, as it is, Veiny’s main desire seems to be to possess a human and then — prepare yourself for the horror — sit and stare out a window.

Diabolical!

The Unborn, for reasons that seem unknown even to him, also features Gary Oldman, who stumbles through the movie with a look that makes you think he’s not sure how he wandered on to the set. Idris Elba, the excellent Stringer Bell from The Wire, also walks on, looks around and then walks off. Perhaps that’s the movie’s central mystery — how did two decent actors end up tangled up with this mess? Hmmm, maybe possession by a demon force is real after all. D+

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, disturbing images, thematic material and language including some sexual references. Written and directed by David S. Goyer, The Unborn is an hour and 28 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Rogue Pictures.