In no other genre is a lack of dynamic music cues more glaringly noticeable than in horror — there are only so many times the same shrill, atonal violin shriek or catastrophic piano hammer strike can bolster a jump scare before they register as literally one-note. In writer-director Sheldon Wilson’s haunted-house-meets-home-invasion horror flick The Unspoken, those lame scares abound, weighing down an original concept.
A family disappears after what appears to be a bloody exorcism, their house boarded up, and only the local country-boy riffraff dare to enter (not to mention offer up an animal sacrifice and stash drugs in the basement). Single mom Jeanie (Pascale Hutton) moves in with her creepy mute son Adrian (Sunny Suljic) seventeen years later, with a local girl named Angela (Jodelle Ferland) as their nanny.
Despite frequent references to Angela’s father’s unemployment forcing her to take a job in a place where malevolent spirits are causing chaos — the handyman goes missing almost immediately after Angela’s arrival, and there are piles of dead cats and dogs in the woods — there is no urgency to Angela’s decision to stay, especially when people begin disappearing soon after this new family moves in.
Wilson overexplains his concept in dialogue and won’t let the pictures speak for themselves, even though he’s got at least two stellar, horrifying set pieces here, one involving an animated carcass of a dead dog that hasn’t yet lost his thirst for blood. He does smartly amalgamate multiple horror clichés — think The Cabin in the Woods‘ mash-up of monsters, zombies, tormented teens, and a government conspiracy. Only this film is in dire need of some atmosphere and a rewrite to make the twists work.
Written and directed by Sheldon Wilson
Opens October 28, Cinema Village
Available on demand