“The Exorcist” has remained a classic horror film because it’s not just about things going bump in the night. It’s about a priest’s loss of faith and how he atones for it. A lot of stuff gets the night-bumps in “The Unborn,” but that’s about it.
Casey Beldon (Odette Yustman, “Cloverfield,” “Transformers”) is a normally healthy young woman who has terrifying nightmares in which a pale little boy and a creepy dog play major roles. The kid just stands around staring at her; the dog wears a mask. Casey calls her BFF, Romy (Meagan Good, “Saw V,” “One Missed Call”), for suggested interpretations, and the news is not encouraging. Casey then calls on her boyfriend, Mark (Cam Gigandet, “Twilight,” TV’s “The O.C.”), for moral support.
While on babysitting patrol one night, Casey finds the kid she’s tending leaning over the rails of his baby sister’s crib. He’s holding a mirror and forcing the baby to look into it. He then tells Casey that “Jumby is ready to be born now.” Nothing is creepier than a creepy kid.
Casey discovers that her grandmother, whom she never knew she had, is living nearby in a Gothic home for the aged. Nothing is creepier than a gothic home for the aged. Grandma Sofi (Jane Alexander, “Feast of Love,” TV’s “Tell Me You Love Me”) was a twin who was, along with her brother, subjected to terrible experiments at Auschwitz by a mad Nazi scientist. Nothing is creepier than a Nazi scientist, and he doesn’t even have to be mad. Somehow this led to a dybbuk “ a creature from Jewish folklore, the soul of a dead person who can’t get into heaven and so looks for another living body to inhabit “ haunting the family and wanting to be born.
Casey is sent to see Rabbi Sendak (Gary Oldman, “The Dark Knight,” “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”), who doesn’t know where the wild things are, but soon learns. Casey steals a manuscript containing Jewish exorcism rites from the local library, which she then gives to the rabbi to translate. During the exorcism, this manuscript is going to get torn all to hell, and you know what that’ll do to the librarian.
I often wonder as I watch movies like this “ the ones that don’t command my full attention “ how the protagonist is going to explain the carnage to the cops. During the exorcism, 10 people are killed. The survivors are going to tell the police that they were conducting an exorcism and the demon turned out to be stronger than expected? And how are they going to help the little boy who murdered someone with a meat ax while being possessed by a dybbuk?
Writer/director David S. Goyer (“The Invisible,” “Blade: Trinity”) pulls off three good jump moments, which may be all anyone should expect from a generic shocker like this. Oldman is wasted, as is Carla Gugino (“Night at the Museum,” “Sin City”) as Casey’s mother, seen in dialogue-less flashbacks. Goyer could have pulled back on the creepy dog with its head turned upside down. That’s just funny, and the more often we see it, the funnier it gets. Nothing is funnier than a dog with its head turned upside down in a horror movie.
Could have been worse, but should have been better.