Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Unfolding (2015) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
There are few wilder, more beautiful places in rural England than Dartmoor. Driving along a lonely road, Tam (Lachlan Nieboer) and Rose (Lisa Kerr) make way for ponies whose plump, hairy flanks make them well adapted to the high places and the clammy mist; this isn't a place for humans. It's a liminal space, a land that still seems steeped in ancient mystery. Tam thinks he sees a black dog perched atop a crag.
In the car, a news programme plays on the radio. It's mostly geopolitics. There is serious concern about impending nuclear war.
Tam is a paranormal researcher, a PhD student. The couple have travelled out here to investigate a supposedly haunted house whose owners flee almost as soon as they arrive. Rose, tagging along, doesn't like it. She instantly feels uncomfortable in the place and wants o leave. Tam, however, is intently focused on his work. As the story develops it becomes clear that he's engaging in multiple forms of retreat. The existential threat of nuclear armageddon is too terrible to contemplate. The moors offer a sense of escape into an untouchable place, even into the past. The house offers something similar. In exploring the haunting, he may be trying to sidestep into a parallel dimension, lose himself in a field in which he feels he has control, or simply disengage from reality.
This premise, rich in possibility, is enhanced by haunting cinematography, eerie music and a colour palette which sees initially subdued tones fade almost into black and white. It's an enchanting opening and something of the magic lingers as we watch the house at night through hidden cameras, seeing mysterious specks of light drift around it. It's enough to keep us guessing, waiting for deeper mysteries to unfold as the narrative takes a turn for the prosaic. Tam's initial enthusiasm as he begins to suspect ghostly goings-on is very much an academic's passion - he doesn't need Poltergeist-style antics, with the merest hint of tangible uncanniness sufficient for a thesis. Sufficient, in fact, for a call to his supervisor, who in turn summons a medium. As they investigate, as they run through every formulaic step one would expect of such a process, and as they come up with cliched and utterly unprovable explanations for everything they encounter, we keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the shift in perspective that the opening promised us.
It doesn't come.
The Unfolding is full of promise but ultimately emerges as a disappointing film. Whilst the performances are pleasingly naturalistic, they fail to engage on a level that can make us feel what we need to at the end. The film is at times beautiful, evocative and thoughtful, but it leaves us with nothing to think about. Where there should be desolation there is only emptiness.
The Unfolding is available on Digital HD and VOD from Frightfest Presents, from 14 March.Reviewed on: 12 Mar 2016