Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Review: The Unwilling

The Unwilling (BHFF 2017)
Cert: tbc / 76 mins / Dir. Jonathan Heap / Trailer

And so the final day of the British Horror Film Festival 2017*1 began with writer/director Jonathan Heap's The Unwilling, the story of a dysfunctional family reunited at the will-reading of their estranged, abusive father. But as the opening moments of the film intimate, he may not be entirely gone*2...

By far the most traditional Horror™ movie of the day, Heap plays with memory, mania, nested-reality, OCD, addiction, the occult and metempsychosis. It's not unfair to say that there's a bit too much going on in the film's 76 minute runtime, and the result is interesting if uneven. To paraphrase a certain princess, it has "too much personality for one screenplay, but not quite enough for two".

With a definite indie-feel, the cinematography is efficient if a little televisual in places (by which I mean like a good episode of The Twilight Zone, which is by far preferable to a bad Blumhouse movie). The scripted humour feels out of place in the final product, as does That Shower Scene, hinting at earlier drafts which perhaps aimed in different directions. Pretty much every plot-progression is firmly telegraphed (although the few jump-scares aren't), but it's all nicely executed.

The film is only really let down by, if anything, the autopilot, borderline-cameo performance of its poster-name, Lance Henriksen (who would, to be fair, go to the opening of a fridge if he thought the light was going to shine on him), and what can only be described as ill-advised CGI which looks like it was rendered after the budget had ran out. But the film has some interesting ideas. Just slightly too many.

Overall I'd recommend The Unwilling for fans of the genre, but I doubt it's going to draw any new converts across the line.

This main feature was prefaced by two shorts; Emma Dark's Salient Minus Ten, a 13-minute foray into paranoid expressionism. A valiant effort but clunky, horrendously overacted and feeling far too much like A Student Film™ for its own good. This was followed by James Mansell's 3-minute NightmARes, archly dipping a toe into notions of reality in a digital-age.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Think August: Osage County, by way of Hellraiser....

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Other than the festival circuit, I'm afraid this one will slink directly to DVD, if only by virtue of its run-time.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Not completely, but that's not for the lack of trying.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
The only name I'm familiar with here is that of Big Lance. And in that regard: no.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Right, Lance Henriksen was in Scream 3, as was Carrie 'Leia' Fisher.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 I'm aware that I say this as if I attended the other days of the festival. I didn't, this was a very last-minute thing. Although judging from the programme, by going to Saturday alone, I saw more full-length features than the previous days' screenings combined anyway. Despite almost having my own parking space at my local cinema, my experience of actual film festivals is limited, and although the couple I've been at were only really a series of curated performances scheduled in a regular cinema, I feel slightly out of my depth at them. But hey, there'll be more on festival etiquette in a later post. Oh, yes. Scenes. [ BACK ]

*2 An opening which feels like it's from another edit of the film, entirely. Much like the spacecraft-landing at the beginning of Predator, the sequence at the start of The Unwilling basically robs the film of its structured reveal. Well done, guys? [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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