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Film Review: The Unseen


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The Unseen is a difficult film to place in any particular category. 

It moves from psychological drama, to tense thriller, to chilling horror (seamlessly at that), as you cautiously try to decipher just where things are leading to. It also shows writer and director Gary Sinyor’s flare for unnverving his audience despite having primarily stuck to comedy throughout most of his career.

Following the accidental death of their young son Joel, Gemma (Jasmine Hyde) and Will (Richard Flood) have difficulty adjusting to the circumstances and begin to experience harrowing side effects from their grief. Gemma, who works as an audiobook reader and blames herself for the incident, starts to have panic attacks that affect not only her vision, but also the audience’s (a gimmick that works surprisingly well). Will, meanwhile, claims to hear Joel’s voice at night. They then meet Paul (Simon Cotton), who offers them a break from everything in the form of his countryside guest house. Gemma seems keen; Will doesn’t. Of course, they eventually accept.

At first The Unseen appears as a meditation on how grief and trauma can manifest themselves, and from a far more interesting, if slightly muddled, angle than you might assume. Subtleties such as a throwaway scene where Gemma screams at a pair of random kids to be careful as they play on a statue show the lingering, underlying effects of guilt. Religion is also touched upon as Gemma and Will disagree on Joel’s fate after his death. Then, of course, there’s Gemma’s (literally) blinding panic attacks. While uncomfortable to watch, these overtly saturated, blurry point of view shots best ooze the ominous tension that riddles the film as a whole.

But it isn’t until the second act that the film truly finds its stride. As certain motivations are slowly revealed, Sinyor displays a deft ability for crafting suspense while Hyde gives a performance as powerful as it is quietly vulnerable. A less capable actor may have simply offered what was given on paper; Hyde, however, brings a depth and likeability to the role that adds far exceeds requirements.

There are some glaring issues at play. Its (very) shaky third act is hard to ignore despite containing some of the most gripping moments, while the final shot is sure to cause division. But it’s a still much more clever and thoughtful film than it needs to be. Sinyor is under no illusions about how his film will fare this opening weekend, but he hopes that after you’ve had your Star Wars fix you’ll consider catching this while it's actually in theatres. We do, too.

The Unseen is released in cinemas on the 15th December 2017.

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