Ginger Nuts of Horror
The Unseen stars Jasmine Hyde as Gemma, an audiobook narrator whose young son tragically drowns in an indoor pool accident shortly after the film begins. The resulting sense of guilt and loss that Gemma feels manifests in a series of never-ending panic attacks; these panic attacks are made even more upsetting by their ability to cause Gemma's vision to become blurred to the point of complete disorientation. As Gemma and her husband spiral into a bottomless pit of despair and an inability to deal with their senses of guilt and Gemma's increasing frequency of the debilitating panic attacks, they decide to try and get away from it all by taking a weekend trip to a country house owned by Paul.
Gemma met Paul thanks to a random encounter during one of her panic attacks, when Paul helped her to get through it, but is Paul the good samaritan that he first appears or is there a more profound and darker reason for his good deeds? However, during their weekend getaway, Gemma's panic attacks continue to get worse, and their relationship finally starts to unravel, to a point where Paul may just get exactly what he wanted all along.
The Unseen is a refreshing if that is the right word, entry in what is now becoming an overcrowded market of low budget thrillers/horror films. The film is shot on a shoestring budget, however where many of other films of this type waste their money on silly special effects or stupid jump scares, The Unseen uses its tight budget and filming time to construct a film based around some compelling performances and a powerful and emotionally charged script.
The Unseen straddles many genres, at times it is unsure whether it wants to be a thriller, a supernatural mystery or a domestic drama, this uncertainty on the whole works very well. The hints of some sort of spectral presence that are scattered throughout the film help to keep the viewer guessing as to what is really going on, this sense of confusion is aided by the brilliant cinematic portrayal of Gemma's panic attacks. When Gemma suffers from one the viewer is given an insight into the utter sense of confusion and despair she feels by allowing the viewer to witness what she sees and feels thanks to a massively disorientating blurred screen effect and a perfectly pitched soundtrack. The film may slightly overuse this impact and its function to "signal" specific plot events, but even so, this is a clever and brave cinematic effect that fully delivers on its intended function.
The film's unwillingness to fully commit to one genre, to some, might feel somewhat wishy-washy, but this reviewer loved this approach, it allowed the film to flex its dramatic muscles and gives the actors a lot of room to deliver some terrific performances, and when the film finally settles on an actual direction in the final acts it adds to the power of the film.
As mentioned previously The Unseen is carried by some truly magnificent performances. Jasmine Hyde's performance as Gemma is heartbreaking, raw and fascinating; you are drawn into her world with an utter sense of futility and panic, her pain becomes your pain.
Richard Flood's portrayal of her husband is one of the most emotionally charged depictions of a grieving father you are likely to see. His sense of loss and helplessness from the loss of his child and his inability to help his grieving wife is devastating; this is a performance that will punch you hard in your soul.
Even Simon Cotton's performance as Paul is finely tuned and effective one. A charismatic and chilling presence, Cotton oozes a like a malignant stain across the lives of Gemma and Will.
The Unseen is a brooding, slow burner of a film, a disturbing and emotionally devastating look at the loss and grief suffered by the death of a loved one. A compelling narrative boosted by stunning performances and elegant cinematography, it is a welcome change to the standard fare offered to horror fans these days.