Some movies, regardless of genre, grab you by the throat and drag you along on the wildest ride of your life. They shake you, scream at you, push you over the edge until you love it and want more. They’re the type of movies that make you glad to be alive, they make everything seem right and leave you with a big sloppy grin plastered across your face for hours to come.
Unspoken (2015) is not one of these movies and I will never get those 91 minutes of my life back. That is a prospect more horrifying than anything else in this movie and will haunt my sleep until the day I die.
A bland, by the numbers and somewhat idiotic movie that has contributed nothing to humanity’s development and will one day be used by future historians to point out how depraved an era ours truly was.
The plot, when it remembers to have one, is the same one we’ve all seen over and over again in the mass produced horror genre, a clichéd riddled death march to the gulag bingo of the soul that flits all over the place.
A house where some terrible things happened (in the ancient days of 1997) is bought by a new family consisting of a single mother (Pascale Hutton) and her weird, mute nine year old son (Sunny Suljic). Soon after a local girl (Jodelle Ferland), with unknown connections to the house, is hired to look after said mute child; freaky stuff ensues. Plagues of flies swarm the house, weird noises sound from the cupboards and basement, dishes end up stacked all over the kitchen for some reason and still no one phones a priest to do an exorcism or just simply leave and not look back. Some no good teens that have been hiding their drug stash in the basement cause trouble for family and babysitter, a creepy old grounds man is the first to get offed – in a scene that is so jarring in tone that for an actual moment I thought I sat on my remote – and hey look, bingo.
I’m not joking with cliché bingo metaphors. I actually started playing Count the Checklist, hitting ten before I got to the title sequence and you know what? It was a damn sight more entertaining than actually watching the movie. I can’t tell you more about the plot because that’s about it. In the last twenty minutes the filmmakers remembered to put something else in and at that stage Unspoken goes completely off the rails.
Trying to connect in any way to the characters is laborious task at the best of times, as everyone seems to have gotten their notes mixed up with an Ikea catalogue. The only actor involved that seems to be aware that this will be a bad movie is TV’s own Neal McDonough who I truly believe is repeating the mantra “It’s a pay check, it’s a pay check” over and over in his head to get through this. The actions and responses delivered in the most stiff, disjointed manner.
Were they trying to capture the Lynchian “Otherness” for the characters to trigger a subconscious feeling of unease to heighten the foreboding experiences? That they are all Jungian architypes inhabiting the single mind represented by the house which despite the makers best attempts couldn’t be pulled off in the end? I hope so because otherwise it raises questions on quality control these days. The characters are the same at the start as they are at the end – with maybe a few extra holes in them. Devoid of an arch they are neither engaging nor rememberable. Nothing but two dimensional flickers on the screen.
In fact the only character that is even worth remembering is the Caribbean housekeeper (Rukiya Bernard)who does the smartest thing ever seen in a horror. Getting the hell out of there. Though the twist at the end questions the whole background of her being there in the first place.
It’s not only the acting that’s dull, the script is just awful with characters voicing every single thought and motivation. This is not how you engage with an audience. This isn’t even how you engage with someone coming off anaesthetic after a root canal. You do not need to tell us directly that the Father is out of work. Just show him filling in some job forms with bills piling. You don’t need to have the babysitter ask who was in the closet when she realised it wasn’t the kid. Just show fear crossing her face when the penny drops. I would honestly recommend budding screenwriters to watch Unspoken if only as a not-how-to example. The story flits between a gore-snore fest and cut-rate ghost story mystery that I am willing to put money down that there was a photocopying error and two different movies got mixed up. It can’t decide if it wants to be Braindead (1992) or Devils Backbone (2001) with the crap gore, gothic setting and criminal gang. There are so many questions left unanswered that it’s not even a mystery, it’s just cruel and unusual.
One final rant. There has been online buzz about the genre subversive twist at the end. For the sake of remaining spoiler free I will not tell you what the twist is. Only that it is possibly the dumbest thing I have seen in cinema to date. And I am including all of Adam Sandler’s back catalogue in that.
A good plot twist will be set up early in the movie, the best ones you won’t see coming till they happen and then you kick yourself for missing. Psycho (1960), The Usual Suspects (1995), The Sixth Sense (1999), Memento (2000), these movies have the finest twist ends ever put on screen and each is set up early in the film. Only when the big reveal is made does everything click into place. You’re happy that the filmmakers got you because it’s increased your enjoyment of being in the audience.
Unspoken’s twist is so mind numbly stupid, and makes no sense what so ever in its lead up, that all it caused was violent swearing at the TV and will no doubt help in the fall of Western Civilisation.
Dir: Sheldon Wilson
Scr: Sheldon Wilson
Cast: Jodelle Ferland, Sunny Suljic, Neal McDonough, Jessie Fraser, Jonathan Whitesell, Rukiya Bernard
Prd: Jamie Goehring, Kevin Leeson,
DOP: Eric J. Goldstein
Music: Matthew Rogers
Runtime: 91 minutes
Unspoken is released on Digital Download 22nd August 2016 and on DVD 5th September 2016