THE UNBORN (D: David S. Goyer, 88 min). Opens Friday (January 9). See movies. Rating: N
Some horror movies start out well and take a bad turn; others plod along with a hint of promise but never quite realize it. And then there are those rare entries that stumble from the very first minute and refuse to change course, plunging heedlessly, ludicrously forward as they run screaming into the brick wall of their own stupidity.
Which brings us to The Unborn, a howling mess of a movie in which Odette Yustman - best known as Cloverfield's imperiled Beth - spends 87 minutes screaming in terror as she's stalked by an undying, unholy spirit demon that manifests itself in mirrors and nightmares. The entity's name is Jumby, and it is "ready to be born." Presumably through her. At which point it'll start asking to be called Carl, or something.
There's distinct horror potential here, and a straight reading of the plot does sound fairly creepy: What gorgeous college student wouldn't be freaked out by a string of supernatural occurrences which may or may not be linked to the manifestation of a mysterious genetic disorder that's causing her eyes to change color?
Oh, and it's also got something to do with the Holocaust. And Jewish mysticism. And there's a dog monster. Plus demonic possession.
The thing is, writer-director David S. Goyer throws all of these elements at us in the first reel of his movie, which is so packed with disturbing CGI and shocking plot twists that most horror movies would be happy to use it as their last reel ... and then he has nowhere to go for the next hour except batshit crazy in every possible direction, with even more CGI and even more plot twists, and a flashback cameo by "Joseph" Mengele, and did I mention the dog monster can possess people too?
I expected more from Goyer. I'm actually a fan. In addition to his fine work with Christopher Nolan on the Batman reboots, Goyer wrote the Blade movies; there's no question he knows and loves genre stuff. Of course, he also directed the final Blade movie - the one with Ryan Reynolds and the evil Pomeranian - so it may just be that his reach has a way of exceeding his grasp. I'll therefore choose to be gentle, and say that while there certainly is a lot going on in The Unborn, there ain't much going on that makes any freakin' sense.
Yes, the film has obviously been recut by a nervous studio - how else to explain the final act, which includes a thrashing exorcism presided over by Rabbi Gary Oldman and his trusty sidekick, Stringer Bell from The Wire? - but the effect is to make it seem like an already insane production has been picked up and shaken violently; the thing was clearly insane all along. Or at least once the dog monster showed up.