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THE UNBORN: UNRATED (Universal/Rogue/Platinum Dunes/Relativity Media)

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Old 07-11-2009, 03:26 AM   #1  
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Default THE UNBORN: UNRATED (Universal/Rogue/Platinum Dunes/Relativity Media)



Studio Name: Universal (Rogue Pictures/Platinum Dunes/Phantom Four/Relativity Media)
MPAA Rating: PG-13/NOT RATED
Disc/Transfer Information: Region 1 (U.S.)
Director: David S. Goyer
Starring Cast: Odette Yustman, Gary Oldman


SYNOPSIS:

Towards the end of William Friedkin's classic The Exorcist, Ellen Burstyn, playing the mother of the possessed girl (Linda Blair) is talking to a group of doctors who are trying to figure out what is wrong with her daughter. At some point, one of the head doctors makes a reference to the rite of exorcism, and how it has been brushed into the closet except by the Catholics, who view it as an embarrassment of sorts -- but he also makes a reference to how a priest or a rabbi attempt to drive out the invading spirit during exorcism, and this was the very first mention I had ever heard of the Jewish faith being mentioned in the same sentence as "exorcism." In David S. Goyer's latest gorefest, The Unborn, we are actually witness to the notion of a Jewish exorcism rite -- something I don't believe has ever been put on celluloid save for some rough mentions of the "Pazuzu" demon being inside a female nurse who is Jewish in Exorcist: The Beginning. And, like that Renny Harlin prequel to the Exorcist franchise, The Unborn deals with a backstory regarding the Holocaust of World War II.

It's interesting that Goyer, flexing his directing chops after getting behind the pen for The Dark Knight, would choose demonic possession as an avenue for cinematic expression -- perhaps there was indeed a connection in casting Gary Oldman here as a Jewish rabbi, as strange as that may sound. Usually only gathered to remake classic horror films, Michael Bay and his "Platinum Dunes" cohorts got together on this one, and it is indeed one of the better possession-themed films to come along in awhile. I am a fan of this genre -- give me The Exorcist or Amityville II: The Possession on any late-night film viewing session -- and not being of the Catholic faith, I found the subject material here most astonishing, being how I explained that never was there a film that really concentrated on Judaism aspects of demonic possession. The film isn't bad, but what lets it down is Goyer's clear borrowing from so many tried-and-true formulas already, such as the constant looking into mirrors to see demonic images, the African-American friend of a sexy lead Caucasian female who believes nothing anyone tells her and does anything to comfort her "white girl," and a sequence ripped directly off of the re-released Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen in which Linda Blair's character tumbles down a flight of steps, backwards (a scene titled "The Spiderwalk") while blood gushes from her mouth -- in The Unborn, it's dogs and people whose heads turn around while they climb steps backwards as Blair did in Exorcist.

Now, you wanna talk sexy? To watch the deliciously tempting Odette Yustman parade around in her boy short panties with that amazing body and sick, tight ass of hers is enough to make you blow a wad in your home theater chair -- but this happens multiple times in the film, so you better have some reserve. Yustman is just slammin' hot, but, like most modern horror, the script and final product is not helped by this: Again, we have young 20-somethings we just don't give a shit about (I know I sure don't) rambling about demons and visions and ghosts and how they're going crazy -- all inbetween going to classes and acting so self-important on their cell phones, iPhones, iPods, laptops and whatever else they use to take up air with these days. Isn't there one director in Hollywood or one writer for that matter that doesn't have to succumb to this ridiculous formula? Does everything we see in cinema today demand that we relate to this demographic, or worse yet, the kind that's smokin' the weed in the beginning of the Friday the 13th remake or the ghetto trash that's hanging out with Paris Hilton's character in the remake of House of Wax?

Alas, I have to review this title, so I need to go over the formula once again...In a suburb of Chicago, a sexy college girl (Yustman) is beginning to see visions of a creepy little boy with piercing blue eyes. Everywhere she looks, she sees this kid who seems to constantly be missing one of his blue gloves, which she finds on roads and other locations. What is it, also, about creepy little kids that turn up out of nowhere to carry signs from the other side? Why is almost every horror film based on this notion? Kids are unnaturally creepy as it is -- but are they all demonic? As Yustman's visions of the boy get stronger and more frightening -- and as she screws her annoying boyfriend even though she's coming apart psychologically and goes to nightclubs dressed like a tart -- her physical image begins to change, too, mainly in the form of her eyes. The prerequisite African-American best friend notices it on her first, and the first manifestation seems to be coming in the form of a change in color. When a doctor looks at it (this seems to be Goyer's borrowing of Jessica Alba in the American remake of The Eye) he concludes, somehow, that Yustman must have had a twin at some point because it seems like genetic information has been "fused." And indeed, she had a twin brother that had died in the womb at birth. Turning in a surprisingly brief performance as Yustman's father is James Remar -- remember him as "Ajax" from The Warriors? I haven't seen him in anything in quite some time. Ironically, I watched The Warriors just last night, prior to viewing The Unborn this evening.

At any rate, as in all modern horror, the clichés begin to expose themselves like a reluctant stripper at a fraternity house -- Yustman's mother went nuts from losing the other baby, so she was shipped off to a mental asylum where she supposedly killed herself, Remar has been raising Yustman on his own, the visions of demonic images in mirrors get more disturbing and frequent, the African-American friend continues to think the white girl is batty until she herself is exposed to a creepy demonic image in the form of a little kid she hits with her car yet doesn't kill and there's always the old lady somewhere who holds a secret and an answer, but who's reluctant to help at first. That lady comes in the form of an old hag living in a retirement home of sorts -- Yustman tracks her down after finding an article about the Nazis and the concentration camps in her mother's belongings in the attic, along with a mention of this old woman's name in the newspaper article.

I've often been accused of giving too much information away in these reviews, so let me try and reign this habit in by making just some more comments about The Unborn; in talking to this old lady, Yustman finds out about the demonic force surrounding her, and because she's Jewish, there appears to be Jewish approaches to the solution -- one mainly being Yustman being put in contact with a rabbi (Gary Oldman). The old lady tells Yustman stories about the demonic presence, how they can manifest themselves as animals or insects before appearing as human apparitions. Also is an underlying story about what the Nazis did to the old lady and her twin brother (apparently the "boy" Yustman is seeing in reflections and elsewhere) in the concentration camps, and how these "experiments" on the twins lead to something supernatural. Yustman goes to see Oldman in an attempt to have an exorcism performed on her, and after denying the existence of such things (another Goyer borrowing from the original Exorcist in which Jason Miller's character explains to Burstyn how exorcism has been discarded after the diagnosis of mental illness) he eventually gathers a team of people who will assist in the Jewish aspect of this exorcism. As I said, I never saw a film that dealt with this angle on the demonic possession issue, so I applaud Goyer for exploring this in a horror film -- but the exorcism sequence itself is a bit corny, what with Oldman reading Hebrew prayer and blowing the Schofar horn, while the "entity" jumps from body to body, including Yustman's boyfriend. It became a tangled mess of a bunch of different horror flicks kind of rolled into one, and when Oldman's African-American priest friend is quickly possessed by the entity and runs around growling with glowing eyes, I was hoping the film was soon over. What did the whole "twin" and "Unborn" thing have to do with Yustman after the trailers suggested this angle? I'm not going to give any more away about that.

While Yustman is indeed a smokin' piece of tail, the oddest casting choice had to be Gary Oldman -- he just looks like he cannot take this role seriously as the Jewish rabbi believing a sexy college girl is possessed by some demonic force; either that, or he is struggling with playing this role -- but either way, his performance shows some hindrance and it's not really the Oldman we know and love. The film borrows heavily from Exorcism of Emily Rose and other old and more modern occult shockers, but I do give Goyer a star for trying.

Worthy of note is the fact that the disc comes in an "Unrated" edition, and I have to be honest -- I'm getting sick of studios releasing this way. Almost every horror/shock title released over the past five years or so is launched in this way, and I just don't get it...usually, the cover exclaims "Too Much Gore For The Theaters!" in order to justify the "Unrated" moniker -- in reality, the last title I saw that actually lived up to that promise a bit was Universal's release of the Dawn of the Dead remake. Otherwise, this label is merely for adding minutes of additional footage not seen in theaters, and this normally equates to absolutely nothing of value for the film itself. In the case of The Unborn, I selected the Unrated cut from the menu to watch, but it still came in under an hour and a half.

VIDEO QUALITY:

Another nice transfer from Universal. The Unborn is saturated with cold, steely blues and other cool hues throughout most of the under-90-minute running time so it's a difficult one to judge in terms of saturated colors. The disc exhibited little noise or digital compression issues, and aside from some aliasing and slight shimmering, I didn't notice anything that would cause this to be labeled a "poor transfer." There is a muted, purposely-shadowy look to the film, and this translated onto home optical media as it should have.

AUDIO QUALITY:

Surprisingly, there wasn't that much excitement to the audio track accompanying The Unborn. As with modern "horror" and shocker titles, there's a hefty looming of heavy LFE in the background, and this was aggressive, but the dialogue was a bit low and there was unbelievably little surround activity. The back channels appeared to merely be bracing the soundfield and creating vague, random ambience. There weren't any blatant, aggressively-driven moments where effects and elements went screaming into a surround channel -- surprising for the "supernatural" material here. In fact, in keeping with the theme, the remixed Dolby EX track on The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen DVD was actually more dynamic in terms of channel activity than The Unborn.

SUMMARY:

As I discussed above, it was a genuinely refreshing attempt to see a horror film that dealt with the topic of demonic possession from a Jewish faith perspective, and for that, I give Goyer credit. But The Unborn unfortunately falls into many ripoffs and clichés to really make it stand out from the titles that were released last Tuesday -- or even from modern-day shockers that actually worked, such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose or An American Haunting. The problems stem from the idiotic 20-something casting to an ill-fitting role for Gary Oldman to a running time that doesn't really explain much about Yustman's "twin" or what's been "haunting" her in the context of the "unborn" theme. Oldman doesn't seem to fit the rabbi role, and there are a great many parallels to other horror films that Goyer blatantly showcases. To be honest, I have seen a lot worse -- and I mean a lot worse -- modern horror including the aforementioned House of Wax remake and forgettable titles like The Eye, Shutter and The Uninvited (which borders on "thriller," not "horror").

In the end, and in summary, it's another one that possibly had great potential but was ultimately disappointing in terms of being memorable.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Fans of "possession" and occult type subjects will find this interesting, so it's definitely worth a rental; the "PG-13" rating for the non-unrated version worries me, as there were moments of graphic shock and terror -- but this may have been confined to the "Unrated" cut. I don't think your lady will like this one -- unless she's into horror -- as mine didn't, evidenced by her choice to stay on the computer as I viewed the disc for a couple of freelance jobs, but as I said, it's an interesting title to check out if only to see the Judiasm perspective on demonic possession.

Can I recommend a purchase? I can't, but it's one of those titles that if I found cheap used, I may consider putting on the shelf -- your mileage may vary, but rent it first.

Thank You for Reading!

Last edited by Peter Marlowe; 07-11-2009 at 03:37 AM..
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Old 07-11-2009, 06:44 PM   #2  
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Has anyone watched the Unrated cut of The Unborn and compared it to the "PG-13" version yet? Curious to see the differences; my review copy must be returned to an editor today...
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Old 07-12-2009, 09:35 AM   #3  
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I only watched the unrated version. The clichés killed it for me. The sudden sound effects, the "it was only a dream sequence", the skeptical wise-cracking friend, etc., etc.

What was surprising was the cast. Oldman, Alexander, Remar and Elba?! I have to say Odette Yustman can give Megan Fox a run for her money...she's a knockout!
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Old 07-14-2009, 03:21 PM   #4  
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Originally Posted by gossamer View Post
I only watched the unrated version. The clichés killed it for me. The sudden sound effects, the "it was only a dream sequence", the skeptical wise-cracking friend, etc., etc.
Thanks for your reply, Gos!

The above that you detail is EXACTLY what I found about the film -- did you read my references to the way Goyer ripped off certain films? I had mentioned the African-American best friend who wants to calm the white girl down and doesn't believe anything she's saying (as in every Nightmare on Elm Street film, notably Freddy Vs. Jason) plus the obligatory looking in the mirror of the bathroom medicine cabinet and seeing a creepy thing/little kid...whatever. But I DID think the whole exploration of a non-Catholic exorcism ritual was unique; from what I recall, this is the only film to deal with it from a Jewish perspective.

Quote:
What was surprising was the cast. Oldman, Alexander, Remar and Elba?! I have to say Odette Yustman can give Megan Fox a run for her money...she's a knockout!
Indeed...did you read what I said about Yustman in the beginning of the review? Yeah, this chick is SLAMMIN' hot...I don't know WHAT Goyer was thinking with Oldman as a Jewish rabbi doing an exorcism. Way off base there.

Glad to see someone else noticed the aspects of the film I did; thank you for your comments! Let me know what you thought about what I replied to here when you get a moment...

Also, I'll have my review of the other "haunted" title just released today, "Haunting in Connecticut," up later this evening...
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Old 07-14-2009, 05:28 PM   #5  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gossamer View Post
I only watched the unrated version. The clichés killed it for me. The sudden sound effects, the "it was only a dream sequence", the skeptical wise-cracking friend, etc., etc.

What was surprising was the cast. Oldman, Alexander, Remar and Elba?! I have to say Odette Yustman can give Megan Fox a run for her money...she's a knockout!
I really liked the one scene when she was in her undies, when the mirror was making noise... when she walked away fro m the bathroom.. then heard the mirror shake.. she turned back to the bathroom.. and voila.. .. yummy.. lets just say she is shaved (down there) .. yes, i am a bad man!
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Old 07-14-2009, 06:25 PM   #6  
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I really liked the one scene when she was in her undies, when the mirror was making noise... when she walked away fro m the bathroom.. then heard the mirror shake.. she turned back to the bathroom.. and voila.. .. yummy.. lets just say she is shaved (down there) .. yes, i am a bad man!
Good observation, my friend...she was indeed shaved down there; I made a handful of observations about Yustman parading around in her boy short panties and how awesome her ass and body looked in the review...it's interesting that she garners more attention and is worthy of more commentary than the film itself.


You almost forget this chick was in Cloverfield, as the sexy ex who arrives at the party in the beginning with her new boyfriend...

Last edited by Peter Marlowe; 07-14-2009 at 08:22 PM..
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Old 07-14-2009, 07:24 PM   #7  
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Good observation, my friend...she was indeed shaved down there; I made a handful of observations about Yustman parading around in her boy short panties and how awesome her ass and body looked in the review...it's interesting that she garners more attention and is worthy of more commentary than the film itself.

She's so slammin', I've made her my official Avatar, from her GQ photo shoot...

You almost forget this chick was in Cloverfield, as the sexy ex who arrives at the party in the beginning with her new boyfriend...
Oh yeah! That was her! I knew she looked familiar. I rarely pay much attention the the young starlett's names anymore because they come and go but she looked so good parading around in this film...
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Old 07-14-2009, 07:27 PM   #8  
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Oh yeah! That was her! I knew she looked familiar. I rarely pay much attention the the young starlett's names anymore because they come and go but she looked so good parading around in this film...
Yup. I nearly forgot she was in Cloverfield -- as I watched The Unborn, I kept thinking "Damn...what was this chick in?"

But yes, she's the one in the short dress in 'Field who comes to the party in the beginning with the new boyfriend.
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Old 07-14-2009, 08:19 PM   #9  
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I only watch uncut versions.. This movies is very good.. The Orphan one coming out in July 24th seems good also. Don't know yet haven't seen it..
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Old 07-14-2009, 08:21 PM   #10  
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I only watch uncut versions.. This movies is very good.. The Orphan one coming out in July 24th seems good also. Don't know yet haven't seen it..
I'm trying to figure out some of what you're saying here, Tip...

You thought "The Unborn" was very good? Of course you haven't seen "Orphan" yet as it's not the 24th as of yet!

As for "Uncut" versions, what I'll usually do is if I haven't seen a film in theaters and then get it at home, I'll watch the theatrical cut first and then see what the "unrated" adds -- for The Unborn, I went straight to the Unrated.
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