Review by Michael Edwards
“JUMBY wants to be born now” is not a line that would usually be considered terrifying but writer-director David S. Goyer thought it might be a good premise for a horror. He was very very wrong.
The story he devised centres on an attractive young high school girl called Casey, who one day has a dream about various quasi-psychoanalytic symbols that seriously freaks her out.
Unsurprisingly the dream is portentous and she is soon plagued by a bivouac… no, hang on, that’s a type of military shelter… a Dibuk: an evil spirit from Jewish folklore that tries to take over human bodies. This particular Dibuk has a liking for Casey’s family and has been trying to gain control of one of them for decades.
The strange thing about what ensues is that ‘taking control’ seems to mean popping up as an ill-looking child now and then, usually accompanied by a loud, unpleasant noise. Obviously, this noise is as annoying for Casey as it is for the audience as she decides to seek help from a concentration camp survivor who once helped Casey’s insane mother – although her mother later killed herself, so it doesn’t seem to be the most sensible plan!
Nonetheless, this eventually leads her to seek a Rabbi who acts as an exorcist to scare off this annoying child in a ‘dramatic’ and very windy religious ritual.
In case this review has not been as clear as it should be so far, it’s only fair to make this point as precisely as possible: the premise is ridiculous, the spirit mundane and the majority of scenes just laughable.
The basic idea is stolen wholesale from The Exorcist, clumsily converted from Catholicism to Judaism and stuffed with titbits plundered from a seemingly random selection of horror films with no cohesion or style.
This makes the spirit an inconsistent being that is one minute a fleeting and unnerving presence and the next curled up in a medicine cabinet for no apparent reason. At one point, there’s even a dog with an upside-down head! It’s funny, granted, but certainly not the best addition to make a horror film terrifying.
There is a danger that Gary Oldman’s presence will lend this film an undeserved credibility, please do not be fooled. He isn’t in it for long and his role as Rabbi Sendak is just as hollow and uninteresting as every other two-dimensional character in the film.
As soon as any one of these creations walks on screen you know what’s going to happen to them – and that level of predictability is a sorry indictment of any film.
Admittedly, there is some fun to be had watching this. For those looking for mild titillation, Odette Yustman wears a lot of skimpy clothes. For those who enjoy the ‘loud noise + nasty picture = scary’ school of horror this won’t disappoint either.
Plus there are inexplicable moments like the weird-headed dog and a crab walking elderly man that are always good for a laugh. But sadly the most haunting aspect of The Unborn is the frightening spectre of a sequel that lingers at the end of the film.
Running time: 87mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 22, 2009