This slickly made if superficial horror from writer-director David S. Goyer — whose credits include Batman Begins and the Blade trilogy — stands as the first original outing from Michael Bay’s remake machine, Platinum Dunes, although there’s so much that’s second-hand about it, it might as well be. Not that The Unborn is all bad. There’s a general air of unease that permeates and pervades the entire picture, and as well as several standout spooky and/or shock moments — the dog with the upside head being the best — but also a plot that defies logic, credibility and, ultimately, one’s patience.
After an admittedly arresting start in which college student Casey (Odette Yustman) — whose pert behind is the film’s only real claim to greatness — encounters a creepy kid and a mask-wearing dog while out jogging, the movie contrives to shoehorn in demonic possession, haunting by your twin who died in the womb, a suicidal mother, and Nazi experimentation during the Holocaust, alongside every horror cliché of the last few decades — Is it a bad dream? Only if the script needs it to be — although there’s a neat twist in that the demon is a dybbuk from Jewish folklore, rather than your typical Christian one. Ultimately it’s all smoke and mirrors, with added J-Horror spookiness, leading to the inevitable anti-climatic finale in which Rabbi Gary Oldman and a multi-faith contingent perform an exorcism on poor, possessed Casey that involves much shouting, wind machines, and the inevitable human casualties.
As with the recent release of The Strangers, “the extended cut not shown in cinemas” selling point doesn’t actually amount to very much extra stuff, with the difference between this version and the theatrical cut less than one minute (51 seconds to be precise), although the deleted scenes do run to a whooping six minutes but are so worthless you understand why they were deleted in the first place. Moreover, the 15 rating illustrates exactly who the movie’s aimed at. Teenagers who like to be scared. But not that scared. Apparently there’s a sequel already in development, which would presumably be titled either The Born or The Reborn. This, alas, is mostly stillborn. Exorcist lite.