Thursday, January 15, 2009

movie review--the unborn

Horror, as a movie genre, suffers from a lot of baggage. Some of the previews that were shown when I saw "The Unborn" highlighted some of them--violence, gore, and sex that add nothing to the story but are gratuitous.

I'm not a big watcher of horror movies, with the expection of some of the older classics, like "Dracula" and "Frankenstein". In recent years, the two movie I've seen that I would consider the most effective horror movies would be "I Am Legend" and "Silent Hill".

"The Unborn" comes close to them. Perhaps if some of the crudity and sexual stuff were taken out of the first half-hour of it, it would have reached the same level, because it was a fairly well-though-out and well-made movie.

I do wonder how much of the mysticism references is really in the Kabbalah, though I did recognize the one kind of prayer or chant the group at the end was speaking from another thing I saw not long before, the anime series "Silent Mobius", though there were a few differences.

The story could be summed up in a typical fashion (as could most movies, I would guess)--girl is haunted by some strange being, seeks help from a spiritual guru-type who at first doesn't believe her but then has his own encounter with it, some people die, there's a creepy kid (though not a little girl this time, for a change), there a big final encounter where the big evil spirit-dude gets cast back to wherever, and our heroine lives, though not exactly happily ever after.

It does well in setting the mood, and I must give kudoes to the actress who played the heroine. Once the movie got going, she did pretty well in convincing me the viewer that she was a fairly rattled and on-the-edge person who was fighting a losing battle (much like the character's mother) unless she got some help.

Another big plus in the movie was Gary Oldman, playing the guru. I do think that he is one of the more under-rated actors out there--you could line up the characters he's played, and be not a little surprised that one person had done all of them. Unlike a Tom Cruise (whose characters seem to be all the same), Oldman seems to become the character rather than the character becoming him.

In this movie, though, I would guess the character wasn't a very difficult one to do.

And in a movie season where the main theme seems to be fighting Nazis ("Valkyrie", which I refuse to watch (yeah, Cruise has a really convincing German accent in the ads, right?) and the other with the new James Bond actor in it (who does sound rather Slavic)), "The Unborn" probably gets extra kudoes for finding an original way of working in the Nazis (though I don't know if such experiment were actually performed by them) as the ones responsible in a primary sense for the troubles.

Here are some thing of special interest to me.

When prepare to perform the exorcism, Oldman's character, a Rabbi, calls in an Episcopalian (can't remember if he was a bishop or not) to help with it. When the exorcism goes bad, we see the Episcopalian kneeling and praying right before the evil spirit things jumps into him to take over his body for further mayhem.

I don't know if there was suppose to have been any meaning behind that or now--given that the Rabbi was there at the final confrontation to dismiss the spirit, perhaps there was a certain pro-Jewish religion and/or an anti-Christian thing showing through. Hard to say that, though, since they played the Episcopal as being essentially a pretty good guy willing to add his two-cents to help the girl.

And while I have my doubts about this, I would guess there's a chance, a remote one, that it's a bit against Episcopals. Maybe the statement is that some Episcopals don't really believe and so are open to being manipulated by such beings. And for myself, I think, well, isn't the Bishop Spong an Episcopal? And Eugene Robinson? If so, well, I would find myself in agreement, at least to some extent.

But that's a stretch, I know.

Perhaps the thing that struck me, and that gave me pause, was right at the end. The spirit had entered the girl's boyfriend, and she and the Rabbi had finished reciting a Psalm that had the effect of dismissing the spirit (or so we think), but in doing so the boy is thrown from a second floor down to the first, and with the girl holding his head he's dying. His last statement was in a since one of the more chilling ones I've ever heard in a movie. It was something like "Will I ever stop falling?"

I was uncertain at the end if the movie resolves everything or not. I don't know if the discovery of the condition that caused the haunting to begin was now safe and the haunting over, or if it will go on to another generation.

But, despite some things I didn't particular care for and maybe some plot weaknesses, overall it was pretty good. If you like horror, you'll probably like this movie.

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