Sometimes when watching a horror movie, I find myself laughing at moments most people would find frightening. Is this because I'm just using this as a defense strategy because I'm actually really scared or am I just a sick person who enjoys watching people suffer? Well, that last statement could be true, but it depends on who is being punished. The real reason why I laugh is because certain situations become so ridiculous when it's supposed to be taken seriously that my natural reaction is to laugh. I want to sit down and become fully engaged in the world that is being displayed for me. I want the characters to feel like people I know or at least could have.
Getting the chance to experience the same feelings as our main character does is one of my favorite things about narrative film. When Laurie Strode found her best friend dead in Halloween, you felt fear and dread alongside her. When Wendy Torrance found out what Jack was really writing in The Shining, you both had that same feeling of uneasiness because nothing made sense any more. I could say the same thing for when the mom starts to fight back in The Babadook or the very last scene in May. There are many moments that make you believe what they are seeing, because the acting sells it. However with the film presented here, I'm just not believing the world that is being presented.
The Unspoken starts with a cop showing up at a house in the middle of nowhere for no reason. He even has his sirens flashing with lights wailing, and for what? Even if someone from the house did call 911, why would only one squad car get sent with no back-up? There wasn't even any ambulance in sight. Now if a neighbor from way down the road showed up to surprise the tenants, it would be plausible. A major stretch but still plausible. Inside the home, our cop starts seeing some freaky shit including one of many jump scares (and there is a lot of them so get used to it). A hysterical woman screams and runs out and an old priest is being hung. Outside the house after back-up finally arrives, the cops are talking about a family that once lived there but have disappeared. They are never brought up again until the end of the movie and even then, it's still a badly written red herring.
Cut to 17 years later, a mother named Jeanie (Pascale Hutton) and her mute son Adrian (Sunny Suljic) have purchased the same spook house and are looking at renovating it. We then meet our main character Angela (Jodelle Ferland), who is a dead ringer for Molly Ringwald's Andi from Pretty in Pink. Her mother passed away and her father (Lochlyn Munroe) is no longer employed. I should mention Angela is gay because the movie wants you to notice she is. Even though it's only brought up once and then never again. So why bother making it an important aspect of her character? There is a moment when her girlfriend Pandy (Chanelle Peloso) shuns her in front of a group of rednecks because she is afraid of what they might think of her. I thought maybe they would both learn to accept who they are and stand up to the gay bashers, but neither of their sexual orientations is ever brought up again.
Needing some extra cash, Angela decides to babysit for the mute boy while the mom runs errands. There is already another servant named Portia (Rukiya Bernard) working for the mom, so I don't understand the need to hire new help. Also why does Portia have a Jamaican accent? I'm not saying there can't be more diverse cast in this movie. It's just the accent is terrible and it makes that person into an obvious stereotype. She might as well be playing a steel drum and have a voodoo doll around her neck.
While alone in the house, Angela begins to start noticing some spooky things happening and is freaked out. Then again, this girl jumps when her damn cell phone rings, so anything might set her off. Her dad finds out where she is working and forbids her to go back there. Of course, you know she is going to otherwise this would be a really short movie. Tension is brought in when the rednecks I mentioned earlier want to break into the same house because that's where all their drugs are being stored. The leader hatches a plan to kill everyone and leave no witnesses. I guess being wanted for murder is way better than drug possession in their town. At least, their plan is better than the true reveal of what's really going on at the house.
The Unspoken is all over the place with its plot and story. It wants to be a haunted-house story mixed with a home-invasion thriller. Writer and director Sheldon Wilson uses the jump scare like it's going out of style. There was a moment in a three-minute scene I counted not one but at least seven different jump scares. When you put that many surprise moments in your film, it's no longer a horror movie; it's annoying. The same cat jump cliche ocurs twice. I would have liked to have known what happened to the family at the start of this movie. Why did they disappear? The same ending could be applied to it and would have worked better.
I have been a fan of Jodelle Ferland ever since I saw her in Terry Gilliam's fantasy film Tideland. She was only nine or ten at the time, and I thought her performance was amazing. Her roles in Silent Hill and Paranorman were also really good even though they were small parts. Her role as Angela could have been good if the character had been better written. Maybe because of her sexual orientation and living in a small somewhat conservative town, it would help explain why she is so scared all the time. She has never been shown acceptance or love. Hutton and Suljic were good, but only after the big plot twist. Sadly, this comes at the last five minutes when it should have been the cataylst for the third act.
At the end, it's revealed Adrian has psychic abilities and is the one responsible for all the deaths and things moving around the home. He and his mother move from town to town, take up residence in an older place, and then make it appear to be haunted. I don't know why they do this but it would have been a more fascinating story than what is presented here. If there were no ghosts and it was only Adrian, how could he have known Pandy was in the home heading towards the basement right before her demise? I get that he knew Portia was in the kitchen when he scared her with stacking plates. He's never even met Angela's friend once.
Jeanie gives Angela the option to come join them as their new nanny and explains that her mom was once the caretaker of the previous family that disappeared. Yup. Angela's mom was the same hysterical woman who ran out of the house at the start. It turns out that no one believed her that the place was haunted and so she killed herself. Really? Not the cop, who went through the house and saw all that happened, believed her? Not even her own husband? But if that's true, why did he make such a stink about Angela getting the job there. At the end, Angela chooses to stay and the cops show up with their guns drawn on her. We then cut to Jeanie and her son driving to their new home. They pass a sign reading "Amityville 14 Mi."
The Unspoken is available on Digital HD and opens theatrically in New York (Cinema Village), Los Angeles (Noho 7) and regional territories including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, Orlando and more.