In September of 1997, the Anderson family vanished from their remote home on Briar road, leaving behind scores of scattered blood, a lynched dead body, and a house keeper in mental shambles. Seventeen years later, Jeanie and her son Adrian move into the Briar home with the legendary and infamous reputation for being ghastly haunted. Living on hard times with her father being laid off from the region business, Angela reluctantly accepts a good paying caretaker position for Adrian at the notorious Briar home. When a local drug runner gets wind that his stash’s repository is no longer vacant, a dangerous game of retrieval pits the desperate small time dabblers against a supernatural force living inside the home that puts Angela, consequently, in the middle of a terrifying standoff.
Sheldon Wilson. A name that’s under the horror radar for most horror fans, but for this particular reviewer, this particular fan, Sheldon Wilson has had a major influential role in bringing a wealth of horror to my life. The director’s 2004 film “Shallow Ground” was the first domino piece to fall that a started landslide of independent horror cinema to come flooding into my presence and opening up my world, my eyes, to the many facets of the genre. I fell hard for “Shallow Ground” that led to the foundation of a grand and glorious horror collection that would be acknowledged Rob Zombie, who’ve I’ve heard, has an extensive film collection. Wilson’s latest venture “The Unspoken” has reminded me that horror can live in the restraints of the past and can be bold with an unforeseen twist.
Now, “The Unspoken” epitomizes the very definition of generic titles, but the premise goes far beyond being geriatric with similarities, but not on the same elaborate scale, to the 2012’s “The Cabin in the Woods” by exploiting the genre’s familiar tropes but shifting, at the very last moment, to an ending that’s well received and a breath of fresh air. From the Wilson films that I’ve experienced, his story structure is orchestrated in a detailed manner making the subtleties pop with saturated intensity. With “The Unspoken,” Wilson’s indirect jump-scare style is very much engrained and effect goes without diluting the entire film as some, examples such as some of the recent Halloween films, have done in the past to the point of tiresome and ungratifying.
A satisfying cast genetically makes up the captivating story with young and upcoming scream queen Jodelle Ferland in as the lead role of Adrian’s desperate caretaker Angela. Ferland has quite the stint in horror starring in such memorable films as the recently referenced “The Cabin in the Woods,” “The Messengers,” and as the young child in 2006’s strong video game adaptation of “Silent Hill.” Ferland possesses that scared and innocent persona and she leaves nothing on the table when forcing to battle against a supernatural danger that can animate a decaying, jaw-severing dog corpse. Pascale Hutton, Anthony Konechny, Chanelle Peloso, Lochlyn Munro (Freddy Vs. Jason) and a passing-through role for “The Hitcher” remake’s Neal McDonough as a local sheriff rounds out the rest of the “The Unspoken” cast. Sunny Suljic, who portrays the unspoken Adrian, solidly performs as the creepy and mute, Damian resembling child even with his bad young Elijah Wood haircut. Together, the ensemble plays their respective roles with as much as earnest as the next film with more of the focus on Angela and Adrian throughout with supporting characters driving much of the storyline, funneling toward a surprising catalytic event.
For the majority of the film, “The Unspoken” meets the harsh criteria fans need and desire from their horror films with some solid practical effects, no CGI effects, a story-driven plot, and a haunted house full of good scares with tidbits of blood and gore in between them all. There’s even a little nod of respect for the “Amityville” series. Only insignificant character underdevelopments raise a few unanswered questions about situations perhaps more pertinent to the motivation of the story such as the forbidden relationship between Angela and best friend Pandy which floundered a bit out of place within the confines of the plot and went stagnant when more about the Briar home became revealed or when Pandy’s more-or-less boyfriend Lutheran and his drug scheme goes through the sharp blades of a blender.
The Lighthouse Pictures produced and Arrow Films UK distributed paranormal disturbance feature “The Unspoken” hit retail shelves and online markets September 5th. I’m unable to review video and audio quality with a region 2 DVD-R and there were no bonus material available from the static menu. However, Wilson’s film fairs with a sharp and clean appearance without the bedazzling of a Hollywood budget; the director’s use of the slow panning method and focusing on unsettling camera angles to transform an ordinary mountain home into a menacing dark presence doesn’t require much touchup in order to terrify audiences. If you’re a fan of quiver inducing, nail biting horror with a good M. Night Shyamalan twist at the end, “The Unspoken” will leave you completely terrified and utterly speechless.
Masters of horror. You know. Those legendary filmmakers that become iconic in our beloved genre. The monumental men who made history by evolving the monsters, killers, and madmen to the very monsters, killers, and madmen we see today on the big and small screen. These giants of horror are household names to ordinary film fans and Gods to those who dedicate their lives just to live in a moment in a very small portion of their foot heel shadow. You, reading this op-ed, know the very names of these directors without even me mentioning their names. For those who are virgin to horror, however,…
George A. Romero
The list could go on with more familiar names. Familiar. That seems like a term for old people now, like myself, the thirty-years of living on this planet. Why is ‘familiar’ now for the old fogies? For one, I don’t think much of the younger generation are aware, or even respect, the above list of names. And why should they? Because, secondly, those listed about have done squat in, I don’t know, how many years? Think about. The Masters of Horror are no longer producing any great horror films and there seems to be no clear cut answer to why. A couple of theories swirl in my clustered little mind.
They’re old. Getting elderly is tough and when you’re youth runs dry, you’re energy goes right along with it. Take Romero for example. The man is 74 years old. Wes Craven is even older than Romero by one year. Could their old school imaginations keep a generation, doped up on ADD medication, entertained for more than 10 minutes. Much of today’s horror is about the blood and the tits and the “how scary you can make a CGI monster.” Creativity has gone out the window and I think that “Saw 7” and the soon to be fifth sequel to “Paranormal Activity” have proven just that.
Old school horror has run out of ideas. Can you remember the last time Romero, Carpenter, Stuart has made a good movie? Romero’s last film was “Survival of the Dead” back in 2009 which flopped. Before that “Diary of the dead” and that was another flop. Since the turn of the century, the king of the zombies has only directed four films with Land of the Dead being the more successful. Take a look at “Halloween” director John Carpenter. “Halloween” is the highest grossing independent film ever, yet also in the last decade, nothing spectacular from Carpenter. His vision of “The Thing” is classic, his character Snake Plissken is iconic in “Escape from New York”, “Big Trouble in Little China” is timeless cut, but “The Ward” and “Ghost of Mars” have been absolute below the bar with audiences. This theory doesn’t exclude international directors because we can also examine, point in case, Italian director Dario Argento. Argento famous for his colorful, psychedelic intense films such as “Suspiria”, “Phenomena”, and “Don’t Torture the Duckling”, has been reduced to direct a “Dracula 3D” movie starring Rutger Hauer. Freaking RUTGER HAUER!?!? Don’t get me wrong, I love Rutger Hauer – “Blind Fury” and “The Hitcher” are some favorites – but you can’t have a strawberry haired Van Helsing. Maybe you can – I don’t know. Let’s not forget poor Wes Craven who can’t seem to get off the “Scream” franchise train and everything else he touches turns into a limp, floppy mess.
Now that we’ve gone over my theories, there lies another question to be discussed. Who are the NEW masters of horror? Today’s films rely on blood and guts and not so much suspense and story. Would Eli Roth be my first example of a more current master? His films seemed to be well criticized – “Cabin Fever” with a fresh 63% and “Hostel” with a fresh 61% respectively on Rotten tomatoes. Also, his latest project “The Green Inferno” held promise until it’s untimely indefinite on hold status declared a few weeks ago. Who else? Alexandre Aja? More shock than schlock but hasn’t really produced anything original as he’s banked on remakes – “The Hills Have Eyes”, “Piranha 2” – but with his breakthrough hit “High Tension” and his upcoming release “Horns” starring Daniel Radcliffe, we could be watching a master in the making.
I want to hear from you. Who do you think will step in the shoes of a master? Lucky McKee? Adam Wingard? Let me hear your choices and your thoughts on these!