Director: Eugene McGing
Cast: Robert Daws, Lachlan Nieboer, Lisa Kerr, Nick Julian, Kitty McGeever
Running Time: 90 minutes
At first glance, a film titled THE UNFOLDING might suggest some kind of laundry advertisement rather than a haunted house themed horror film. But suspect title aside, this is actually a very welcome effort from writer/producer/director Eugene McGing who has managed to craft a film that could very well be considered the not so distant British cousin to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Of course, the impact that this statement will have on the potential viewer will depend largely on whether or not they were a fan of the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY film.
Tam (Nieboer) and his girlfriend Rose (Kerr) are off to Dartmoor to stay in a centuries old house where Tam hopes to obtain evidence of paranormal goings-on. Meanwhile the world stands on the brink of nuclear war, as radio transmissions continue to discuss an impending catastrophic event. Eventually the couple realise there may well be more going on here than just a few bumps in the night so they call in the help of Tam’s professor (Daws) and a medium (McGeever) in the hopes of tackling a potential evil that appears to have taken a focus towards Rose.
Horror films, and particularly haunted house films, tend to get a bad rep these days for falling into instances of cliché. These clichés may well include loud bangs on the walls, stuff going on in the basement, people feeling ‘a presence’, and in this day and age of the handheld found-footage style, let’s not forget the camera getting knocked over or the quality crackling when something’s amiss. While it cannot be denied THE UNFOLDING has all these elements in its story, it’s the way it presents itself that gives the clichés a sense of freshness. You may have seen most of these things before, but they will not have been used as effectively as they are here.
In some ways the small budget actually works as a blessing in disguise. McGinn and co. make the best of what they have to work with, and in doing so they add an extra sense of familiarity to proceedings. This really does look like someone’s home video rather than the staged antics of some other found footage efforts. It makes the events just that little bit more unsettling.
There is jump scares of course, but there’s also a sense that the film is allowed to develop at a good pace which allows the suspense to build naturally. The consistent radio transmissions warning of an impending nuclear strike is a really nice touch, it ramps up the tension and ensures the sense that nowhere is safe. As one character keenly puts it: “with everything going on in the world, this house is probably the safest place to be”. Oh Christ.
There is a real commitment from the actors here, which really heightens the sense of dread when the proverbial starts hitting the fan. Lisa Kerr in particular plays Rose with just the right amount of vulnerability that ensures she doesn’t border into helplessness. Similarly Lachlan Nieboer is engaging and committed in his role, even if the script dictates he is sidelined during some of the film’s juiciest moments. The only distraction is Nick Julian’s role of Harvey. He shows up unannounced without much motive and just seems a bit shoehorned into the plot, not really serving much purpose. It would seem it could have been more effective to have not had the character at all, thus elevating the vulnerabilities of the two central characters.
THE UNFOLDING does not break new ground in found-footage horror, but what it does have is a very committed cast, a very confident director in McGing and some very nice subtle touches that really elevate the tension of the spooky goings-on, and sometimes that’s all you need.
THE UNFOLDING is released on VOD as part of the Frightfest Presents collection March 14.