"a potentially spooky scenario"
It’s always tough when a loved one dies as we assess the legacy they left behind and what they meant to us. Or if they were horrible to you but also rich then you hope that you might at least get some cool stuff out of the old codgers once they’ve been booted from this mortal plain. But what if instead of leaving you riches, your bitter dead relative leaves you something a bit more sinister? It’s this rather intriguing premise that is unfortunately wasted in today’s review, the rather dull horror The Unwilling.
After the death of their estranged and hated patriarch, a family reunites in the hope that they can reap some reward from the dead man’s will. However, upon the arrival of David, the dead man's son, a mysterious box is delivered that appears to give everyone what they want, but at a price.
The acting from the film’s ensemble cast is nothing too special, but it’s hardly the worst acting you’ll ever see. The actors all hit their marks and play their characters fine, but they are rather forgettable and I often found myself forgetting characters’ names and their relation to each other. The film also has some funny and cringe-inducing moments of overacting such as drug addicted Darren’s rather whimsical car ride that is honestly rather laughable. The always great cult actor Lance Henriksen also makes an appearance, but really only for an extended cameo that wastes the veteran performers considerable talents.
The story, while potentially interesting with its tale of a haunted family and it’s evil patriarch, instead wastes its potential and feels less like a dark horror tale and more like an episode of a rather lousy anthology show and maybe the film would have worked better as one. The rather dull plot is not helped by some of the dialogue exchanges which serve to awkwardly reveal some sensitive backstory to the characters in a fashion that, given that some of it deals with child abuse, feels very ill-advised and badly handled.
This being a rather small budgeted film, the film-makers make the most out of its limited setting, with nearly the entire film taking place within the confines of protagonist David’s home, with only a handful of scenes outside of it. While this works in part in creating a somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere, it does leave the viewer rather wanting, and I quickly found myself becoming rather bored of seeing the same, admittedly nice, living room over and over again.
The special effects are a rather low tech affair but they work fine given the likely limited resources available, with the film having some decent, if slightly over the top, blood spray that adds a nice bit of colour to an otherwise visually dull film, and we do get the always neat drowning in a mirror effect, even if it is a bit obvious how the film-makers pulled it off.
Perhaps the biggest sin of The Unwilling is that, for what is supposed to be a horror film, it’s really boring and entirely devoid of any sense of fright. Instead of building tension and suspense, the film tries to jump scare the audience to death with loud music crashes and sudden ghostly appearances from Lance Henriksen that are more likely to make the audience yawn with disinterest instead of screaming in terror.
Filled with rather flat and stock characters, a dull plot that wastes a potentially spooky scenario and a very boring pace, The Unwilling is a film that while it possessing some unintentional comedic moments is far from the worst horror film ever made and is probably one you should skip anyway.