As the world stands on the edge of a nuclear war, researcher Tam (Lachlan Nieboer) and his girlfriend Rose (Lisa Kerr) head to Dartmoor to investigate a suspected haunted building.
Modern supernatural horror films are definitely in a strange place at the moment. With the era of found-footage film drawing to a much-needed end with the conclusion of Paranormal Activity, many films are beginning to understand that audiences need more than just a shaky cam to incite fear. From first-time writer-director Eugene McGing and held together by two strong actors in Nieboer and Kerr, you won’t be blown away by what you’re watching, but you’ll definitely be intrigued as to how it’s all going to end. For its intriguing concept alone, The Unfolding is worth a watch and is proof that found footage still has a little bit of life left in it. At times, it’s a scary and unique horror adventure filled with stunning cinematography and very little nausea-inducing hand-held camera mischief – thank goodness.
The opening of The Unfolding is a real work of beauty and proves that a hand-held camera can present scenes that are filled with real cinematic beauty. The Devonshire scenery is captured wonderfully and ominously as the colour is quite literally drained from every frame. To mirror the impending doom that threatens to annihilate the human race, the colour palette of The Unfolding is drenched in dark greys and faded greens, as it stands on the edge of sinking in to purely shades of black and white. The lack of colour allows for a beautifully stark contrast between light and dark, causing the scenes set at night to be all the more fearful. The jagged shapes of shadows saturate every scene and help to emphasise the foreboding and ice cold atmosphere that is carried throughout.
The Unfolding gives us a pretty perfect set-up for something downright chilling; a large empty house in the middle of nowhere with a full moon in the sky and mist threatening to engulf every scene is a typical, but effective setting for a ghost story. Add this to the world being on the brink of nuclear devastation, with voices on the radio describing the state of the war that looms terrifyingly close and we have a pretty effective set-up for something possibly alarming, indeed. The Unfolding definitely has the potential to be something suitably scary, but unfortunately, it does not quite deliver the chills and thrills one would hope for.
There is a magical and fairy tale-like feel to the film early on as piano music plays softly in the background and the couple talk about eventually moving to Dartmoor- to have their happy ending, shall we say. As they listen to the frightening news on the radio, they assure each other that everything “Will be alright in the end”. Alas, this is a horror film, so we know that everything is going to be far from alright. Sadly, this dreamy atmosphere is abandoned as soon as the couple enter the haunted building. Rather than embracing the quality that could have set itself away from the rest, The Unfolding opts for a familiar route and hits almost every supernatural horror cliché before drawing to a disappointingly predictable close.
The Unfolding begins to go downhill with the entrance of Tam’s friend Harvey (Nick Julian) who starts as the comedic relief – he’s a bit of a clown and the couple accuse him of the paranormal goings-on – but, his duty soon turns into being Tam’s confidante. As with most female characters in supernatural films, Rose begs for the three of them to get the hell out of there and just go home. However, she obviously decides to stick it out and, unsurprisingly, starts to form a connection to the entity (or entities!) that are in a state of limbo. This is when the boys decide they need some help and who are they gunna call? Not the Ghostbusters unfortunately, but a couple of mediums who, in a discouraging Poltergeist-esque fashion, decide that a séance is on the cards. Yawn! It all begins to slowly fall apart during these scenes; our psychic Muriel (Kitty McGeever) proceeds to touch the house walls and describe the pain, loss and “pockets of energy” that are present and describes the dangers in using a spirit board – you’ll invite in bad ghosties, you know?
As the film saunters towards its finale it’s impossible to not feel disappointment. The secondary fear in the imminent nuclear apocalypse is almost entirely forgotten and never feels like it had a home in this haunted house tale. What could have been a highly threatening extra layer to The Unfolding becomes nothing more than a wasted gimmick that was never an intelligible part of the plot. With so much potential for a subtle political comment and an added coating of fear, it’s a shame to see it squandered by the time the film ends.
This may not be the refreshing re-write of the haunted house genre that you’re hoping for, but there is enough to enjoy to see ensure you make it to the closing credits. It’s frustrating to see it eventually disappear in to the horror tropes we are so familiar with, but there is a certain amount of entertainment to be had in this visually pleasing little ghost-fest and its surprisingly solid climax.
Words: Jessy Williams (@JessyCritical)