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August 1, 2019

The Unspoken

by Franz Patrick


Unspoken, The (2015)
★★ / ★★★★

For a good while of “The Unspoken,” written and directed by Sheldon Wilson, it is a decent horror picture executed with deliberate pacing despite a familiar template of yet another family moving into house that is believed to haunted. But a twist offered during the final five minutes reveals that the picture could have been so much more intriguing because it actually offers something new to the genre. In this case, it would have been preferred had the surprise been revealed a little less than halfway through and then the rest of the time being devoted to exploring the daring idea it puts forth.

The mystery surrounds a house that sits away from an already isolated town where a family disappeared suddenly seventeen years ago. When the police arrived, it appeared to be a crime scene given the blood stains on windows, walls, and various appliances. And yet—not one body was found in or around the house. As it turned out, their clothes were still in their closets and drawers, the car was parked at its usual spot, even dinner remained on their plates. It were as if they simply vanished out of thin air. The only person who made it out of the house, with the help of a police officer, was the babysitter, clearly traumatized from what she had seen. But what did she see? When a mother and son (Pascale Hutton, Sunny Suljic) move into the Briar house, locals recall horrifying rumors and legends.

Jodelle Ferland plays the recently hired babysitter named Angela. Although not a well-written character, Ferland plays Angela with a certain wholesomeness and so we cannot help but root for her despite a dearth of information about who she is and why she is our heroine. Ferland commands the screen during the strange happenings around the house, but I wished that the writer-director had done more with the character since the performer clearly can do more. There are dramatic scenes thrown around here and there—such as her interactions with her father (Lochlyn Munro), friend (Chanelle Peloso), and three town thugs (Anthony Konechny, Jonathan Whitesell, Jake Croker)—but the exchanges lack gravity and intrigue.

The picture can be quite graphic. At its best, it uses actual masks, rubber, and other tactile elements to create gruesome imagery. At its worst, however, we see CGI flies, flying knives and other weapons, people being thrown across the room by an invisible force. Had the picture been stripped bare of such ostentatious mumbo jumbo, a much more grounded and believable experience might have been created. Modern filmmakers really must learn not to use inappropriate visual effects when attempting to tell a small horror story.

Still, I appreciated certain pieces of the film even though I cannot being myself to recommend it. There are a few scenes that show characters moving so slowly toward a suspicious noise. The camera follows with precise patience. We anticipate what it might be. Also note there is a certain eerie quiet to these sequences. Inferior pictures of the genre are afraid of silence. And while this piece offers a few jump scares, it does not use them as a crutch.

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