Eye For Film >> Movies >> Unspoken (2015) Film Review
As Eye For Film’s writers have noted in the past, one of the most dangerous things you can do in a horror film is move house. The Amityville Horror, The Inhabitants, The Haunting In Connecticut, Sinister, Nothing Left to Fear – it never works out well. When Jeanie (Pascale Hutton) and nine-year-old Adrian (Sunny Suljic) move into their new house – out in the woods beside a small town, just to compound the clichés – they find that few of the locals are willing to go near it. Only troubled teenager Angela (Jodelle Ferland) is prepared to babysit.
Angela has good reason to be messed up. She lost her mother early in life and since then she’s been pretty much friendless, subjected to homophobic bullying by the gang of young men who deal drugs and generally make trouble in the town. It doesn’t help that her dad is the local lawman, nor that he’s still traumatised by what he saw in Jeanie’s new home 17 years ago, when a whole family disappeared there. So she’s flattered that Jeanie treats her with respect and she tries to ignore the strange things that happen when she’s visiting the house, to find rational explanations for them. Adrian, who is non-verbal, seems to like her. It’ll all be all right, won’t it?
Meanwhile, a handyman goes missing, detectives discover that somebody has been making animal sacrifices near the house, and the gang, who have hidden their stash there, plot a murderous home invasion.
For all the familiar tropes, there ought to be the potential for some good scares here, but Unspoken is too thinly plotted and its characters too shallow for us to care. Everything is predictable, from the cellar door that will inevitably slam shut to the marble that will inevitably come bouncing down the stairs. Is this homage or is it just laziness? Is it necessary as the set-up for the film’s last-minute twist (and only idea)? the difficulty with justifying it that way is that it doesn’t have enough going on to guarantee that viewers will watch until the end.
In terms of horror, the film’s strongest scenes take place during the home invasion, but this is the kind of scripting where somebody thinks up a brutal way to maim or kill and then assumes they can hang a whole story on it. It’s desperate stuff. Meanwhile, characters come and go but only seem to matter when they’re onscreen. We never learn what Jeanie does for a living, where her money comes from or why she needs to have every household task done for her. We never see any evidence of a market for the gang to sell their drugs to. In fact, we don’t see anybody who isn’t directly involved in the story at all.
Unspoken is saved from the one star zone by a dedicated performance from Ferland, who brings depth and emotional resonance to her character in spite of everything. The lacklustre condition of the film as a whole only makes her shine brighter, and she marks herself out as a promising young talent. It’s tough for young women to find leading roles that give them room to hone their craft. One only hopes that she’ll find future ones in films that deserve her.Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2016