08th Aug2013

Rewind: ‘The Unborn’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Brooke Adams, Jeff Hayenga, James Karen, Lisa Kudrow, Kathy Griffin | Written by John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris | Directed by Rodman Flender | Produced by Roger Corman


Featuring the big screen debut of Lisa Kudrow (Friends), the deeply unsettling horror exploitation movie The Unborn stars Brooke Adams and Jeff Hayenga as Virginia and Brad Marshall, a couple whose unsuccessful attempts at having a child see them turning to IVF specialist Dr. Richard Meyerling (James Karen) for help. Initially overjoyed when she is eventually confirmed to be pregnant, Virginia soon senses something is not quite right anda disturbing encounter with another of Dr. Meyerling’s patients confirms her very worst fears. Thing go from bad to worse as it becomes shockingly clear that her unborn foetus is very much in charge of the proceedings and Dr. Meyerling doesn’t have his patients interests at heart.

I thought I’d seen it all when it comes to killer kid movies: The Brood, I Don’t Want to Be Born, It’s Alive, and even to an extent Basket Case, but nothing could prepare me for the sheer insanity that is The Unborn. The film lays out exactly where it’s headed right from the opening scene where a young mother has her stomach literally ripped from the inside out, but despite that, nothing, and I mean nothing, will prepare you for the final half hour of this movie. The Unborn is the type of film that today would get anti-abortionists groups rallying on the internet to organise boycotts of the film – even the Daily Mail would have something to say about it!

The story is nothing new, in fact the film borrows heavily from Rosemary’s Baby – the father is in on the experiment, another patient who finds out whats going on too late – as well as a myriad other ‘mad doctor playing with genetics’ movies but what works for The Unborn is the way director Rodman Flender successfully builds the suspense and over-arcing fear of dread throughout the film, making good use of the character’s history of depression and nervous breakdowns to create a sense of isolation and familial estrangement. It’s just a shame that like a lot of low-budget horrors the final payoff is somewhat of a letdown, once the child is born all suspense is out the window and instead we end up with a final denoument that is marred by bad FX and a schlocky looking baby.

However despite the poor payoff at the film’s climax, like I said, nothing could’ve prepared me for the events of The Unborn’s final half hour – a backstreet abortion, digging a dead baby out of the garbage, the baby not being dead but rather an ‘It’s Alive’ style mutant, then Brooke Adams suckling said mutant baby! Those final thirty minutes are either the work of a mad man or genius, I can’t quite decide…


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