By Tye Musante, Staff Writer
It could easily be asserted that the common horror movie enthusiast is not looking for the same things in a film as, say, a fan of romance or of dramatic films. Ultimately, what it comes down to is the scare factor. However, this doesn’t mean that horror movie directors get a free pass to be lazy, unoriginal and mediocre if they pass the scare test.
“The Unspoken,” the newest project from Sheldon Wilson, director of classics such as “Snowmageddon” and “Once Upon a Crime,” will make you groan more than it’ll make you scream. The story is one you’ve heard 1,000 times before in countless ways. An innocent, white family moves into a spooky old house with a haunted past.
In 1977, the family living in this particular house disappeared with the mystery of their whereabouts still unsolved to this day. Get the picture? Oh, and the new family’s only son is a mute with pale skin and abnormal behavior, but you probably could’ve already guessed that. You don’t even need to pay attention to fully understand what’s going on here.
Truly, the most painful thing about this movie is the dialogue. “The Bryer house? That spooky place?” “No one’s lived there for years… you’d be insane to take a job there.”
And yet, our foolish hero does take a job there, despite of all the clear red flags telling her not to. It feels like the writers cut up the scripts of several other mediocre horror films and mashed them together. While they were at it, they made sure to grab all the tropes their greedy little hands could carry: Christian imagery, a slaughtered priest, a creepy mute son, a spooky house, a desperate babysitter, a foolish white family and their quirky black maid.
The best moment in the film comes during the opening sequence when a “Mouse Trap”-esque set-up begins to move on its own. Its significance is due to the nostalgia it creates, and has little to do with the actual film.
The worst shot occurs when the babysitter looks under a bed in an attempt to find the speechless boy and, to her surprise, a toy car shoots out at her from the shadows. The shot is accompanied with a ridiculously loud and generic jumpscare noise. Why the hell would a toy car make such a loud sound? These types of scares, which could more accurately be called startles, are cheap and boring.
Now, just to be clear, the idea that jump-scares are cheap in general has been disproven. Scott Cawthon perfected the form in his popular videogame series “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” in which players seek to do whatever they can to avoid these jumpscares because what they mean — in addition to you crapping your pants — is that you’ve been caught and killed by a terrifying animatronic animal from hell. The element that makes these scares so praise-worthy is the newness of animatronic horror. No one has utilized our collective childhood fear of animatronics thus far, and Cawthon does it beautifully.
Contrastingly, every scare in “The Unspoken” has already been done. More than this, everything in the film has been done better. The only moment of originality comes from a rather negative factor. The maid to this foolish family is Portia; a quirky, comical black maid with a heavy Jamaican accent. The fact that this character is the only African American in the film just doesn’t sit right. Maybe the true horror in the film went over my head: the horror of American racism hiding in plain sight.
“The Unspoken” was released on Oct. 28, 2016.