Contrarily to what might appear on the title, The Unseen was completed in 2016 but didn’t find its audience until a couple of days ago, aside from a few festivals where it’s been displayed in the last couple of years.
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This troubled production history is what grabbed my attention and pushed me to watch this Canadian psychological horror/drama, written and directed by Geoff Redknap, widely known as the makeup artist for Deadpool, The Cabin in the Woods and Watchmen among others.
The story we follow is that of Bob (Aden Young), a man who’s literally fading away and who’s abandoned his family to cover his secret. However, when his daughter Eva (Julia Stone) disappears under suspicious circumstances, Bob will do everything in his power to find her, including exposing himself for what he truly is…
The Unseen is a quite original take on “the invisible man” story, which has become a staple in horror cinema throughout the decades. However, upon watching the film I can very much understand (or, at least, speculate on) why it hasn’t been widely released until now. You might think that I’m going to trash this movie in this article from this point, but I actually am not.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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In fact, The Unseen is an impressive first film in terms of presentation and technical execution. Besides that, it seems like the story and its message are purposeful and come from a sincere need of expressing something.
In regard to the technical features, The Unseen has a very indie feel which only enhances the story, making it more grounded: the hand-held camera, always moving but rarely shacking, gives The Unseen an almost-student film vibe, in a good way (if you get what I mean). The sound design is particularly effective, with its crisp and detailed nature, a la True Detective. Also, the sound mixing is fantastic, with the movie not having moments where it seems too loud or too quiet. The music can be hit or miss, though: it’s original and complementary during the dramatic sequences, but it’s formulated and dull in the action/horror scenes.
The acting is, also, quite solid. Most of the characters are one-dimensional and flat, but the two leads (Bob and his daughter) truly develop throughout the film and you, as a viewer, really get to sympathise with what they’re going through. The story itself, as I was saying, does have its heart in the right place: there are a couple of moments, along the ride, where the movie will most likely surprise you in a subtle but effective way.
The biggest show stealer, however, is the special effects. Unsurprisingly – due to the director’s experience in makeup and effects – The Unseen relies on stunning and well-crafted practical effects and visual tricks. Considering the budget restraints, they really did a fantastic job at creating such believable and jaw-dropping scenes without (or with little) CGI.
Nonetheless, as I was saying before, I can see how this movie struggled to find its way into distribution: it’s really hard to tell what audience it is aimed to. It’s marketed as a horror film, but I’m sure it will leave horror fans unsatisfied due to the lack of action, scares and even a dreadful atmosphere. Yet, The Unseen is not for pure drama/character study fans either, since it’s got quite a few scenes of gore and offbeat action sequences.
In other words, The Unseen doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be and what audience it wants to appeal to.
Yet, my main issue with the movie revolves around its running time: clocking in at 108 minutes, The Unseen doesn’t earn its runtime and quickly becomes repetitive. Don’t get me wrong, some of my favourite films (whether horror or not) have a very long runtime, but they don’t feel like they do. On the other hand, Redknap’s first feature-length movie feels way longer than it is: I loved the first 40 minutes of The Unseen, where I found the build-up to be great, but then the movie keeps building up without having the final punch I was hoping for.
This is a really frustrating film for me: I wanted to love it, but it ended up being rather underwhelming and forgettable. However, all things considered (low budget and first feature), The Unseen gives me hope for Redknap’s next movies… if he can learn from his mistakes, his next film might truly be great.
The Unseen 6.5/10
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