One has to wonder what prompts an unsuspecting single mother with a child to move into a house in the country with a history as creepy and unnerving as the one in The Unspoken, a new feature out this week by writer/director Sheldon Wilson (Kaw, Shadowground). Yet it’s a story we’ve seen more than once over the years, one that continues to prompt audiences to shout familiar versions of “Don’t go in there!” at the screen. While it’s shot, edited and scored beautifully, this is a tale that’s been told better.
At its core, The Unspoken is a film about a lot of weird things happening in a house where a family disappeared 17 years earlier. Jeanie (Pascale Hutton) moves into the boarded up place with her son Adrian (Sunny Suljic) for reasons that don’t become clear until the final few moments of the film. She hires babysitter Angela (Jodelle Ferland) who is the inarguable star of this whole thing as she quickly discovers that nothing is what it seems within the aging walls of her employer’s home.
Ferland does a great job of reacting to the elements around her, both in the house and outside of it. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t give her much to work with, and the whole thing feels pretty one-note. An odd relationship with her friend Pandy (Chanelle Peloso) feels out of place and unnecessarily complicated, and a group of guys harassing her to get into the house for their own personal gain doesn’t feel believable.
While the payoff at the end of this whole thing wraps the story up in a satisfying way, the lead-up to it is incredibly drawn out. We quickly grow accustomed to the standard jump scare tactic used in horror movies – I eventually lost count when I realized it was going to keep happening throughout, so much so that it became predictable. Yes, it all means something, but the process of watching it play out repeatedly isn’t as entertaining as it could be. A climactic scene near the end shows Wilson’s potential as a screenwriter and director, but it takes far too long to get there.
We just graze the surface of what these characters are about, which is unfortunate given the potential to explore their stories further. Knowing almost nothing about Jeanie and her son, and only a few minor details about Angela, it’s hard to be very interested in what’s happening to anyone. Without much emotional attachment to the characters, this film feels like 90 minutes of watching scary things play out in a house, and little else.
The Unspoken is in theaters and Digital HD on October 28th, and will be released on DVD on December 6th.