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The Unborn (2009)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/7/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/3/2009

As I spend most of my free time watching Blu-rays/DVDs or writing about Blu-rays/DVDs, I rarely get to the movie theater anymore. (Unless I'm taking the kids to see something.) So, when I do go, I want it to be a special occasion, and by "special occasion", I mean that I want the movie to be good. This past January, I ventured out to see The Unborn, as the trailers made the movie looks like an unusually creepy scarefest. Well, let me just say that I should have stayed at home and watched the carpet rot.

The Unborn introduces us to Casey Beldon (Odette Yustman), a college student who is fairly content in her life, although she does still struggle with her mother's suicide. Lately, Casey has been having some odd nightmares when envisions a pale boy and fetuses in jars. One night, she is babysitting the neighbor's kids, when the little boy (Atticus Shaffer) hits her in the head with a mirror. Following this, one of her eyes begins to change color. She visits an eye doctor who informs her that this condition is common in twins. Casey asks her father (James Remar) about this, and he admits that Casey did have a twin brother who died in-utero. Casey then begins to see the boy from her dreams in everyday life. She begins to explore her mother's suicide and soon learns that she is being pursued by an evil spirit. Casey turns to Rabbi Sendak (Gary Oldman) for help.

This film comes from David Goyer, who served as writer and director on The Unborn. Goyer has had a varied career. As a writer, he has worked on such impressive films as The Dark Knight, Batman Begins, Dark City, and Blade. (Of course, he did begin his career writing crap for Charles Band, but everyone has to start somewhere.) But, as a director, Goyer's career hasn't been as spectacular. His previous major efforts Blade: Trinity and The Invisible were both met with indifference (with The Invisible barely getting a release). The Unborn does nothing to improve his reputation as a director, and it may in fact sully his standing as a writer.

To be fair, The Unborn has a promising opening. The first 20 minutes contains some creepy moments and the idea that Casey is being haunted by her dead twin is a good one. The dog wearing the mask in the first scene may not make much sense, but there's no denying that it's a memorable visual. If The Unborn had continued down this path, there's no guarantee that it would have been a great movie, but it could have been interesting and scary.

But, after the 20-minute mark, Goyer decides to get "creative" and the movie not only loses focus, but any momentum that it once had. I can only imagine that Goyer decided that he would a modern version of The Exorcist, but with a Jewish slant, and there's nothing at all wrong with that, as the movie introduces some ideas which we've never seen in a horror movie. Unfortunately, the movie gets bogged down in corny dialogue about ancient demons, Nazis, concentration camps, and long lost relatives. Although Goyer occasionally throws in a visual which is meant to be disturbing, the movie ceases to thrown any truly scary ideas at us. This spirals into a conclusion which is ludicrous.

While we shouldn't expect horror movies to be bastions of logic, The Unborn is especially dim-witted. Casey learns secrets about her family and her mother, but she never asks her father about them. In fact, he is introduced and then never seen again -- we're told that he's out of town. Her friend, Romy (Meagan Good), runs over a child with her car, and then proceeds to curse at him. Following the death of one of her friends, Casey is interrogated by the police in the pouring rain, when they could have easily sought shelter, and then she and her boyfriend head to a diner...because that's what you do. The movie also seems to be borrowing liberally from other films. The finale and the old movie footage reminded me of Prince of Darkness. The killer kid in the raincoat is straight out of Don't Look Now. Even the dog in the mask is lifted from the 1971 film The Mephisto Waltz.

So, in short, The Unborn was a promising film which turned into a muddled mess. And I made it through the entire review without mentioning Jumby. I don't think I've ever experienced anything in a movie which pulls the viewer out of the film like Jumby. To add insult to injury, the home video release features some of the worst artwork that I've ever seen. Is this movie about a woman suddenly being doused with water? Is that scary? It would probably be scarier that The Unborn.

The Unborn actually uses the word Jumby in an attempt to be scary on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The scenes showing a snowy backdrop, such as the opening, emphasize the clarity of the image here. The colors are good and the image is never overly bright or dark, even during the finale. The image shows a very good amount of detail, which is unfortunate for Yustman, as it shows off every flaw on her face. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track delivers some very robust stereo, surround, and subwoofer effects during the action sequences, and the "shock" moments pummel us with booming bass. However, the dynamic range doesn't work in our favor, as the dialogue is much quieter than the music or the sound effects. Thus, I found myself constantly adjusting the volume. I would struggle to hear what the characters were saying, only to be bombarded by the next loud effect.

The Unborn Blu-ray Disc contains only one extra -- 6 DELETED SCENES which run about 7 minutes. Most of these are completely incidental and are simply comprised of extra moments from scenes which are in the finished film. The only interesting thing here is a short and unexplained scene which implies that Casey's professor can see ghosts as well.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has also brought The Unborn to DVD. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good, but the image is slightly dark when compared to the Blu-ray Disc. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This track features a better balance than the one on the Blu-ray, as the dialogue is more on par with the sound effects. The stereo effects are good, as are the surround and bass effects, most notably during the finale.

As with the Blu-ray Disc, the only extra on the DVD are DELETED SCENES.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long