So the screener for ‘The Unseen,’ landed at my desk. It’s a tale about a family who lose their only child in a tragic accident and are plagued by the trauma and depression that would certainly accompany any such incident. The trauma is so severe that it starts causing temporary blindness for the mother Gemma (played with aplomb by Jasmine Hyde) at the mere sound of her child’s voice.
Wait though…the child is no more. How are they hearing him?
That is the underlying question running throughout this taut thriller.
When sitting down to watch The Unseen, I envisaged a chiller resembling The Other Side of the Door; combining horror and eerie occurrences around British homes, yet I was quite wrong. It’s more of an intimate reflection about the impact of loss and the bereavement that follows – the tragedy in this instance ripping the married couple apart and witnessing the cracks of two broken people widen to chasms. Gemma is experiencing strange goings-on around the house after she discovers a teddy bear with a voice note recorded by the deceased child. Her trauma is so severe that vivid memories are being triggered by her deceased son’s speech and cause her temporary loss of sight. Her husband, Will (Richard Flood) is battling his own demons and is in the midst of a breakdown –he finds himself pulling away from his wife and seeking solace in the company of new acquaintance, ex-pharmacist Paul (Simon Cotton), who owns a newly renovated guest house. Paul suggests the weary couple take some time away from the world and rekindle their relationship there.
Time away from their worries and strife should be just what the doctor ordered, but like the imprisonment experienced by the character Paul Sheldon in the film ‘Misery’ – time away from the world is not always the most productive. The dynamic of the three characters changes subtly at first, with Paul becoming more and more involved in their lives, helping Gemma’s panic attacks with medication. However Gemma’s troubles worsen and Will’s depression deepens as they continue to see and hear their son.
In terms of the production, the set locations are ideal; you get a real ethereal sense of remoteness in the Lake District area – however this is sometimes marred by some of the clumsy acting choices which detract from the sense of isolation. I imagine this was a wonderfully tight story when it was originally written, but it seems like halfway through production confusion seeped in as to what movie genre The Unseen should ultimately aim for and unfortunately this shows through. There are inklings of Hitchcock peppered throughout the movie and the conclusion of the story does go some way to making it feel a bit less messy but as a viewer I couldn’t help but feel that the damage was done and I was becoming overly critical of the overall short comings. The Unseen is a stalwart piece of British independent film making, but fails to capture a tangible identity in a sea of superior films.
Review by Mike Prime
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