The Unseen Review
Many films have tried to depict the grief of losing a child. Horror does seem to be the genre of choice when tackling this particular topic with films like Don't Look Now (1973), The Forgotten (2004), The Orphanage (2007), and more recently, Before I Wake (2016). The Unseen follows in this same vein and centres on a young couple trying to cope losing their son following a tragic accident. However, what makes this film so unique is its approach in showing the differing effects of the parents’ grief.
Gemma (Jasmine Hyde) starts experiencing panic attacks which affect her eyesight, at the same time as her husband Will (Richard Flood) is convinced he can hear their son’s voice . Things become a little overwhelming and the couple decide to retreat to the Lake District to stay at a guest house run by ex-pharmacist Paul (Simon Cotton), a man who had previously come to Gemma’s aid during her first panic attack. The couple’s holiday doesn’t quite go according to plan and things soon take a turn. Will, unable to hear his son in this house antagonises his host and suddenly goes home leaving Gemma reliant on Paul, who appears to be developing genuine feelings for her welfare, but is there something a little more sinister going on or is it simply all in her mind?
The Unseen draws heavily on Hitchcock as an influence with references to Vertigo, Suspicion and Psycho dotted through the film. Certainly director and writer Gary Sinyor manages to ramp up tension and suspense effectively and Cotton’s performance is particularly good, especially as we don't know his true motives. His scenes with Hyde are knuckle-biting. There is one scene that is truly chilling, and will leave you gasping. Once the realisation hits and you fully comprehend was has occurred, it’s truly horrifying.
However, after that the film slightly loses it edge and becomes very predictable which is a real shame. Also, the ending is a little too neatly resolved for me, but I was willing to overlook this because of the strong performances from the three main actors, especially Jasmine Hyde who is a relative newcomer, this being her first major role. She really shines in this role bringing with her a believability and honesty to the role without coming across as too melodramatic or wooden. It’s a role we’ve seen a thousands times before but Hyde manages to bring originality to it - she presents the horror of losing a child in an effective and impactful way and leaves a lasting impression.
The film suffers from a low budget, some stunts and action sequences suffer as a result and stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of the film. Towards the end, the film gets bogged down by its own ambitions and seems too caught up in being clever. The pacing is off, and the tension that had been steadily built up, in the first half, is pushed aside for action and jump scares. Although, it’s easy to overlook these small issues because the narrative is gripping and the actors entertaining.
Overall, The Unseen has enough going on to keep viewers engaged and interested. It may stumble and bite off more than it can chew but it’s a chilling horror/psychological drama that offers a new perspective on the topic of grief and loss.