THE UNFOLDING (2016)
Directed by Eugene McGing
Usually writing reviews is a real source of pleasure. If the movie’s a good one then it’s great fun to tell people why they should see it. And if it’s bad then at least you can have a similarly decent time working out amusing similes and ways to say it’s a right load of old bobbins. In that respect, from a reviewer’s perspective the worst thing a film can be is boring. Sadly that’s very much what director McGing’s found footage debut is. Supposedly an ‘exciting and relevant new take on the haunted house story’, the things that should make this movie stand out are unfortunately side-lined in favour of all too generic tropes that’ll satisfy you, yet surprise you about as often as Scooby Doo.
This time our hapless couple are supernatural enthusiast Tam (Niebor), and sceptic partner Rose (Kerr). They take to the picturesque Devonshire countryside for what’s meant to be a romantic trip away. Alas, Tam, the little scamp, has actually brought them to a spooky old lodge to investigate the paranormal. Equipped with the standard shaky camera, creepy soundtrack, and moody CCTV; they and their typical aging medium/ professor friend (Daws) gradually piece together the creepy old building’s history. This means many an off-screen scream in the night, strange shadows lining the walls and a ghostly murder mystery to be solved. But if all this sounds a little too serious, don’t worry – you have the comedy stylings of buffoonish friend Harvey (Julian) to lighten the mood, as he provides an exposition post for Tam. Oh, and in an interesting twist the threat of nuclear war looms in the background, expressed mostly via car radios and mysterious squadrons of military planes.
The thing is, none of it’s badly done. If you don’t mind seeing something a little samey, and you liked the Paranormal Activity series (including the later sequels), then you’ll get a lot out of this. The cast all take to their (fairly limited) roles well and sell the fear. On top of that there’s some scenes of genuine tension throughout, legit jumps, as good a location as you could ask for and a competent enough (if workmanlike) seance sequence. The arcs are also effectively handled, albeit predictable. Furthermore, there are some beautiful shots throughout, with the opening scenes in particular showing a real visual flair and stylistic potential. The sound mixing/ editing is exemplary too, with the team perfectly balancing the muffled voices, wails and bumps to make for an effectively eerie atmosphere. It’s just a shame the content’s all so darn forgettable though.
The movie’s most interesting aspect, with the threat of Armageddon, sadly adds very little to this old chestnut. Whilst there is an attempt to incorporate it into the core plot it is rarely important and never coherent. This is a shame as the idea had a lot of potential and could have added a whole extra layer of fear to the piece, on top of the ‘pockets of energy’ and demonic forces that we’ve seen many times before. Moreover, the genre by numbers approach is made especially troubling because we never really get to know the characters. They speak mostly in functional dialogue, and while the couple definitely exhibit some chemistry throughout we lack much quality time with them. This all adds up to a horror film you probably won’t hate. But then nor will you necessarily enjoy it much either. Consequently, The Unfolding is far from a failure. Unfortunately it’s none too glorious either.