You know how the Jewish kids always get that one crappy Hannukkah song in the school Christmas pageant? Well, with The Unborn hitting theaters tonight, we've got our one crappy Jewish exorcism movie too.
After seeing trailers for this flick, I was pretty excited. First of all, as a horror-loving Yid, I am down with the idea that the next J-horror trend will be Jew Horror! Plus, there's the creepy dog mask thing, a really scary old man monster, the scantily-clad co-eds, Gary Oldman playing a badass rabbi, and most of all David Goyer helming as writer and director. Seriously, how could Goyer go wrong? He wrote the awesome Blade II, and co-wrote the extra-awesome Dark Knight. And now he's got this cool movie about rampaging dybbuks (the poltergeists of the chosen people, man).
But as the movie opened, it became clear that all of Goyer's most original ideas - Jew horror, cool monsters - would be mere flashes in between looooooong scenes where we see protagonist Casey (Odette Yustman, previously in Cloverfield) jogging, undressing, showering, or (worst of all) attempting to get beyond Converse sneaker acting. After watching the umpteenth videochat between Casey and her gal pal, you pretty much agree with said gal pal when she signs off by saying, "Good night, hooker!"
What's annoying is that this movie could have been so much more than a bad ripoff of truly good ghost flicks like The Ring or The Shining. Casey is being haunted by a dybbuk who entered the world during the Holocaust. Nazi medical experiments left victims vulnerable to demonic possession, and now Casey is being stalked by a creature who once possessed her relatives in the concentration camps.
I love the idea of a Jewish demon being unleashed by the Nazis, and there's a great wealth of weird Jewish mysticism that this movie could have called on to create a rich, intense story of Kabbalah gone wrong. But instead we get old ladies clutching their Stars of David as if they were rosaries (who DOES that?) and lame scenes of Casey being sexually molested by the dybbuk. Who, by the way, looks like every other scary child in every other scary child movie. Which is to say: Not very scary.
Even when the rabbi and his pals do the exorcism on Casey, Goyer is so worried that we're bored that he has to throw in yet another pervvy thing on top of all the underwear we've already seen. Yes, they actually stick an S&M-style open mouth gag in her mouth just in case she "thrashes out." What, they couldn't give her a normal mouth protector like boxers wear? No, they had to give her something that made her face look like a sex doll in bondage as the dybbuk mauled her.
I don't mean to be uncharitable, because this movie has plenty of fun bits and jumpy shocks. But it felt like run-of-the-mill B-movie horror, and I was expecting more from the creators behind it. If you're looking for schlocky amusement, The Unborn will deliver. But if you were hoping to see something that would rip your eyes out, slime your kishkas, and haunt your dreams - go see Let the Right One In this weekend instead.