Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled The Unborn

The opening moments of The Unborn make a pretty good case for the return of silent movies. Jogging alone in just-slower-than-life motion, Odette Yustman encounters a creepy child, then a dog wearing a mask, then something nasty in the woods. It's an effectively engineered (though not overwhelmingly powerful) sequence that uses no dialogue, minimal sound, and a lot of creepy imagery to unsettle the audience. Then, after an it-was-all-a-dream reveal, Yustman opens her mouth and the story kicks in. It's pretty much downhill from there.

Written and directed by David S. Goyer, who helped script Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and played various roles in the Blade movies, The Unborn squeezes elements from different sorts of horror movies—creepy kid-centric Americanized J-horror, Nightmare On Elm Street-inspired surrealism, Exorcist knock-offs—into its tight-yet-interminable running time. Troubled by her dream and by an out-of-nowhere assault by a neighbor kid she's babysitting (Yustman and her friends are college students, but they all live at home with their parents), she goes looking for answers. She and the movie piece together what passes for a plot by combining a mother who committed suicide, a twin who died in the womb, mirrors, bugs, a creature from Jewish folklore called the dybbuk, and Auschwitz.

Yes, Auschwitz. After an arresting opening, Goyer's movie groans under the weight of themes it can't bear. And while it gets novelty points for a scene featuring Rabbi Gary Oldman trying to drive a demon back to hell by blowing a shofar, everything else about it feels secondhand, second-rate, and way too stupid to get away with use the lingering horror of the Holocaust as an excuse for beasties with upside-down heads chasing a panting, not-quite-acting Yustman down various corridors. What darkness the movie achieves comes solely from the lighting.