DVD Movie Review: The Unwilling

By Wes Maulsby 16.04.2018

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The Unwilling (UK Rating: N/A)

Back in 1991, director Jonathan Heap was nominated for an Academy Award for the short film, 12:01 PM. He followed that success up with a small handful of feature films before spending much of the past two decades working on shorts. The Unwilling - due out on DVD, Blu-ray and Video on Demand from 1st May courtesy of Vision Films - is the director's first feature length film since 1997, and it unfortunately comes up short with much of what it is trying to accomplish. The result is an experience that is entertaining enough while watching, but doesn't stick around after the credits roll.

The Unwilling is a psychological horror film about a group of people that have gathered after the death of a crotchety and unpleasant old man. Within the home of his son, six of his relatives convene shortly before the arrival of a strange box. Completely black and without any means of opening, the box is adorned with the visage of an octopus and seems to have some sort of mysterious power. It acts as a sort of monkey's paw, which will grant people what they truly desire, but at a severe cost.

The nameless vessel opens the door for a wide variety of very interesting ideas and concepts that haunt and torment the family members. One by one they are tempted by the box's contents, and this is where the strength of the film lies. The variety of different ways in which these characters are abused and even used by the box is what makes up most of the entertainment. Each character has its own demons, which they must face - from greed, to vanity, to addiction - and the box has a little something for everyone. Often these concepts are clever and can lead to imagery that is frightening, or unsettling.


 
Unfortunately, the application of these ideas leaves much to be desired. It is very obvious from the outset that this is a film that is made on a limited budget. The cinematography does not look as crisp and clean as a film made by a studio, but it would be unwise to dismiss every movie made by an independent filmmaker. Instead, one must view it within its budget and grade it on a scale relative to its capability. The bad news for The Unwilling is that even on this scale, this still doesn't perform all that well.

The execution comes up short far too often for the ideas and concepts to be properly conveyed. There is a sequence, for example, where one character attempts to drive away from the home with the box in order to get rid of it. The box, however, has different plans, and it forces the desperate driver to return to the house each time he leaves, without him realising it until he is pulling back into the driveway. His final attempt is capped with him backing directly out of the driveway, and then right back in. The usual audio cues are there for a moment of shock, but the pacing of the edits and the shot selection make the scene less tense and more comedic. It is not a good sign when a scene designed to scare or increase tension within the audience is instead making them chuckle.

This is just one example where the execution simply can't convey the necessary impact of the scenes. From one moment, you will be granted a fairly gruesome scene with some nice squib and blood effects, only to then be followed up with some very poorly done day-for-night effects that don't quite convey the gravity of the situation. Mistakes such as these, big and small, add up throughout, and it is never able to match up to what is actually happening on-screen with its desired tone. Sprinkle in some suspect acting and line deliveries, in addition to a startling lack of subtlety, and you have got a horror film that is not able to conjure up many scares.

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

The Unwilling tries to be to be a horror film, but can't quite hit the mark. All of the requisite images, musical effects, and tones are present, but the lack of execution prevents them from adding up to something memorable. There are enough good things to keep this from becoming a bore, but not enough bad things to prevent it from becoming memorable for other reasons. Instead viewers are left with an experience that rides the awkward line between being memorably good or memorably bad, which results in something that is simply not very memorable.

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