Casey (Odette Yustman) is out jogging when she spots a discarded glove in the path. On further investigation, this would seem to belong to a seriously creepy undead child with big blue eyes, or maybe it’s connected to that nasty masked dog? So what does she do but go digging in the woods nearby…
Then she wakes up.
Spooky dream sequences aside, The Unborn is a disappointing effort from David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan’s writing partner on the last two Batman films, and the man behind the Blade franchise. Goyer is no chump, but he borrows so much from the horror classics that The Unborn sometimes resembles a remix of The Exorcist with samples from The Omen, Nightmare on Elm Street, Rosemary's Baby, Repulsion and various J-horror titles.
If those models mix psychological terrors with grotesque imagery to chilling effect, The Unborn quickly gets bogged down in a ridiculous plot that might have made sense to Goyer’s analyst, but plays like pure malarkey.
A college student who still lives with her dad (her mom died in an asylum), Casey babysits for her neighbours – but harbours dark suspicions about their little boy, who behaves weirdly with his baby brother. But he’s nothing compared to the horrors lurking in her bathroom cabinet, which slams away like an angry teenager. Both the kid and the cabinet have a message for Casey: “Jumby wants to be born now.”
Who is Jumby, and why should Casey care? Thereby hangs a wild tale that takes us into all manner of murky waters involving fetal horrors, the Holocaust, and the Jewish mythology of the dybbuk. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out how, but if anyone thinks The Reader is a mite self-serving as far as the Holocaust goes, well, Goyer’s film is strictly for the “goyim”. (If you don’t know what it means, you qualify.) “It has fallen to you to finish what began in Auschwitz…” poor Casey is informed by death camp survivor Sofi (Jane Alexander).
Ms Yustman looks very fetching (if skinny) in her skanties, and Goyer ogles her with enterprising regularity. He also surrounds her with a smattering of actors who are almost distractingly over-qualified for this nonsense: Idris Elba, James Remar, Carla Gugino, and – a collector’s item, this one – Gary Oldman as Rabbi Sendak.
Oldman fans have come to expect the unexpected – and not a little trash. But what’s strangest about this very odd casting is how he treats it with the utmost seriousness and sincerity. He doesn’t make a thing of it, just plays a religious scholar who finds himself face to face with the enemy. (Yeah, it’s the Max von Sydow role.)
The Unborn (not to be confused with The Uninvited, which is coming out in the spring) contrives some striking moments – most of them you will have seen already in the trailer – but this Jumby business, it’s mumbo-jumbo of the highest order.
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