Has it come to this? An actor with the power and magnetism of Gary Oldman is reduced to playing second fiddle in a third-rate Exorcist clone? Well, no, I suspect he probably turned up for the few days it would take to shoot his brief role as the Rabbi Exorcist (yes, really), purely as a favour to the guy who co-wrote his role in Batman Begins (2005). But still … you’d think he’d’ve read the script before signing up.

Writer/Director David Goyer has ably demonstrated, in the past, his skill at make a living out of his exuberant inability to avoid a good cliché. If you listen to Guillermo Del Toro’s wonderfully disrespectful audio commentary to his Blade 2 (2002), you’ll get an idea of the regard in which he hold’s Goyer’s script-writing skills and, of the two, I know whose scripts I’d rather read.

Never-the-less, borrowing the work of those less conspicuous than oneself is a survival skill in Hollywood and one which Mr. Goyer has in spades. He apparently climbed aboard the Batman bandwagon as a guest of director Christopher Nolan, invited along because he had a track-record in working on scripts based on comics (like, for obvious example, Blade, 1998). Indeed, he only worked on Batman in his spare time whilst prepping Blade Trinity (2004). However, that lamentable waste of good celluloid probably has less to do with his continuing employability than has the runaway success of Nolan’s juggernaut.

So, having written the indifferent Jumper (2007), and produced the laughable Ghost Rider (2007) after, let us not forget, bringing Nick Fury to the screen in the person of none-other than David Hasselhoff (1998, I kid you not); I suppose it was the acme of foolishness for me to expect Goyer’s first foray into supernatural horror to be any more than a pallid ghost-image of older, better films.

So, the semi-conscious observer will spot elements of The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976) plus The Mephisto Waltz (1971) and John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) as well as Society (1989), They (2002), the Dawn of the Dead remake (2004), The Grudge remake (2004), several Marilyn Manson videos and even a stab at El Orfanato / The Orphanage (2007). You’ll doubtless notice many more if you, unlike me, manage to stay awake throughout. Sadly, The Unborn has neither the awful plausibility nor the skin-crawling dread of any of the works it raids.

The responsibility of carrying-off the genre-busting central role of the teenage girl in peril, is given to Odette Yustman, a woman who was clearly selected for her phenomenal acting range and in no way for her high cheek-bones, fetching frown and willingness to appear in her underwear. In a radical departure from horror-movie convention, she is stalked through her father’s palatial house (in the dark) by the ghost of a dead child (killed in some nonsensical flashback to a Nazi experiment camp). Meanwhile, all of the supporting roles are there either to deliver a few lines of exposition before disappearing completely (such as the afore-mentioned father) or purely so they can be thrown away in futile, unsurprising, un-ironic death scenes.

Revolutionary. Why has no one thought of this before?

Seriously … it’s almost as thought Buffy The Vampire Slayer never happened.

Goyer replaces genuine scares with tried-and-trusted cattle-prod shocks which are guaranteed to make the teenage girls at whom this film has been marketed, scream and cling to their boyfriends (which is, of course, the only reason said boyfriends have agreed to turn up). These are the sort of telegraphed jumps for which John Carpenter now apologises in his audio commentaries; but this film is so divorced from any ambition to be anything more than the sum of its burgled parts that they are used here frequently and without shame. Death is meted out to characters who are so slackly-written and unconvincingly-acted that you really don’t care what the hell happens to them. Just so long as it happens quickly.

Goyer clearly pitches this film at a young and innocent audience, an audience which, in all probability, has seen the re-hashings of films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) or The Hills Have Eyes (2006) or Friday the 13th (2009), without realising (or caring) that they are re-makes. These doe-eyed sitting-targets are ripe to be exploited by these obvious, over-used techniques.

Really, unleashing a movie this poorly-paced, half-written and unoriginal on an unsuspecting teenage audience … well, it’s one step away from handing out sweeties at the school gates. He should be ashamed of himself.

Allegedly-written and apparently-directed by David S. Goyer.
Starring: Odette Yustman, Gary Oldman, Meagan Good, Cam Gigandet.
Dur: 87 mins
Cert 15


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