Casey Beldon hated her mother for abandoning her as a child. But when inexplicable events begin to happen, Casey begins to understand why she left. Plagued by merciless dreams and a tortured ghost that haunts her waking hours, she must turn to the only person, Rabbi Sendak, who can make it stop. With the help of Sendak, her best friend Romy and boyfriend Mark, Casey uncovers the source of a family curse dating back to Nazi Germany--a creature with the ability to inhabit anyone or anything that is getting stronger with each possession. With the curse unleashed, her only chance at survival is to shut a doorway from beyond our world that has been pried open by someone who was never born.
Americanized Asian horror remakes typically follow a core recipe consisting of many of the same basic ingredients: a PG-13 rating, a sexy protagonist, chilling nightmares, a ghostly mystery, and of course we can't forget the staple creepy little kid lurking about in every shadow. 'The Unborn' however is comprised of all of these factors yet it isn't a remake of anything. No, writer/director David S. Goyer gives birth to an entirely new entity altogether -- the Asian horror wannabe.
Bet you didn't even know he was pregnant.
The routine story follows a young woman named Casey Beldon (Odette Yustman) who begins having haunting dreams of masked dogs and a eerie child with pale blue eyes. Casey shares her unsettling experiences with her best friend Romy (Meagan Good) hoping, with little luck, to try and figure out what her dreams mean. Things take a turn for the worse when Casey is babysitting her neighbors' children and four-year-old Matty (Atticus Shaffer, who must have been listed as creepy kid #2 in the first draft of the screenplay) clocks her in the face with a mirror and whispers "Jumby wants to be born now."
Since that bizarre incident, Casey's dreams worsen and one of her eyes begins to change color. A visit to her optometrist reveals she has a rare disorder that only affects twins. Shocked by this news, Casey confronts her father Gordon (James Remar) and verifies she did in fact have a fraternal brother that died in utero. The more she digs into her past, the more she believes and senses that the spirit of her other half thirsts for revenge. Casey's desperation guides her to Rabbi Sendak (Gary Oldman) for help--but even the church may not have the strength to rid Casey of her demon and put her tormented soul to rest.
Goyer's scripts have been hit-and-miss over the years, but following the monumental success of The Dark Knight, it's pretty much a given the man can now virtually write his own ticket in Hollywood. Unfortunately, 'The Unborn' is dull, lazy, and makes us feel as if we've strolled down this road countless times before. The screenplay is comprised of such an expansive network of all-too-familiar clichés that it resembles more of a tutorial on how to craft a horror story than anything close to being semi-original. Sure the premise is intriguing (at least up until the Nazis enter the picture anyways and that isn't a joke), but it is spread so thin with terribly slow pacing that the short 89-minute runtime easily seems twice that length. I really wouldn't be surprised if Goyer he just dusted off one of his old writing exercises from college and rode the coattails of his newfound hotness to sell this bland and tedious piece of work.
Likewise, it's important to create characters the viewers care about, not one-dimensional cardboard stand-ups with less personality than a lump of coal. Yustman is quite attractive and a decent amateur Victoria's Secret model, but when she's not showing off her skivvies all she brings to the table is her "distraught" face. The boyfriend Mark (Cam Giganet) might be sweet eye-candy, but the sweetness quickly subsides when some of his lines make him look like an insensitive jerk. Finally there's Gary Oldman--the biggest star in the whole movie--and while he is convincing as a rabbi exorcist, the reality is that the role is small potatoes and could have been filled by practically anyone.
Plain and simple, 'The Unborn' disappoints because we really expected a lot more than what we ended up with here. I will say the film does have stylish cinematography and some half-decent effects, but not even slick production values can mend a poorly conceived and run-of-the-mill story. Add to that the fact that the trailers tout the names of Goyer, Michael Bay (who serves as a producer), and Oldman, and 'The Unborn' feels like a cheap cop out that was best left in the womb.
"I'm Jumby, dammit!"
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal conceives 'The Unborn' on a dual-layered BD-50 Blu-ray disc housed inside a standard blue keepcase with a foil slipcover. Both the theatrical PG-13 version and unrated version (which runs about a minute longer) are included here via seamless branching. Truth be told, I couldn't tell what could possibly be more risqué about the unrated cut, but I guess it's still nice having these options for all of the unrated-addicts out there.
The disc is also reported to be region-free and therefore should function properly in all PlayStation 3 and standalone players.
'The Unborn' itself may have stung a few audiences since it was released, but I'm pleased to report the 1080p/VC-1 (2.40:1 aspect ratio) encode on this Blu-ray is virtually pain-free. I'm guessing it went for the epidural.
As Casey jogs down the road at the start of the film, the cool, drab palette helps paint the gloomy mood for the rest of the picture. The fresh white snow really stands out in the background, and the texture of tree bark, blacktop pavement, and fallen leaves is pleasing to the eye. The image is a hair on the soft side, but facial detailing is still strong and skin tones remain natural. I'm especially impressed by the deeply rendered black levels that never falter once, and also the consistent three-dimensionality exhibited by the transfer. There's just a very small hint of grain, and I didn't notice any noise or other imperfections besides the odd tiny white fleck in scenes blanketed by darkness. Visually, 'The Unborn' certainly delivers the goods.
The Blu-ray also packs a very capable lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that does help make the derivative movie a little more enjoyable at least.
Dialogue is crisp, and even the softer whispers or voices on the other end of telephones come through clear and intelligible. Ramin Djawadi's score is primarily delegated to the front channels and this is only where the bass really has any punch for the obligatory jump-moments. The surrounds contribute to the eeriness fairly well--although there could have been a little more discreet activity from the rears--but they do kick it into high gear during the explosive exorcism sequence. Still, 'The Unborn' has a strong mix and outperforms many horror flicks already released on Blu-ray.
The disc also includes additional DTS 5.1 tracks in Spanish, French, German, and French (Quebec) as well as optional English SDH, French, Spanish, German, French (Quebec) subtitles.
Most likely due to the film's poor reception from critics and moviegoers alike, Universal didn't bother including much in terms of supplements. There's no commentary or even a trailer, all we have here are six rather bland deleted and extended scenes (HD, 6:37) that added absolutely nothing to this release.
I wouldn't say 'The Unborn' arrives completely stillborn, but I think that drunken stork from the Looney Tunes cartoons may have been assigned this bundle and bonked it around a few times during delivery. Goyer's film is basically just a paint-by-number affair that's mundanely familiar, much too slow, and not all that shocking (or scary for that matter). The Blu-ray does look and sound good, however, although the shameful supplement package doesn't exactly help sell the product. I suppose young teenagers in the mood for a ghost story might get the willies from 'The Unborn' though, making this disappointing horror entry a rental at best.