Tam (Lachlan Nieboer) is a student hoping to capture a paranormal event on camera in a bid to further his post-graduate chances. To this end, he's been invited to a house with a reputedly haunted past, at Dartmoor. He takes girlfriend Rose (Lisa Kerr) with him for what's originally perceived as an overnight stay with the current tenants.
On their journey there, they listen to the car radio - which keeps them up to date with global developments as the world stands on the verge on nuclear war. Unsettling times to be sure, but no-one truly believes that the world's leaders are really going to press the button.
No-one, that is, other than the haunted building's residents. Arriving after dusk, Tam is dismayed to find them packing up their belongings and preparing to travel to be with their loved ones ... just in case the big bang does happen. They hand the keys over to Tam and tell him he's welcome to stay: he reasons with Rose that they owe it to themselves to stay at least one night.
Having settled in to the house, Tam and Rose get busy setting up surveillance cameras in several of its rooms. Alas, they don't think to set one up in the kitchen ... after a restless night's sleep, they awaken to find the room ransacked, with cutlery stabbed forcefully into the walls.
Rose is convinced they have an intruder in the house but Tam is sure the event is a paranormal one, and he insists they stay on longer in the hope of capturing the phenomena on screen. Reluctantly, Rose complies.
A couple more evenings in the house; a few more bumps in the night and unexplained occurrences (the sighting of strange female entities, a baby's screams heard in the distance etc). The cameras fail to document any of it. Meanwhile, the radio keeps warning of the imminent threat of apocalyptic war.
Tam has all-but agreed to leave the house when his pal and fellow student Harvey (Nick Julian) turns up. The joker in the pack, his presence - and his cocky confidence, no doubt - persuade the worried couple to stay on another night. There's also the promise that the lads' professor, Chessman (Robert Daws), may be turning up soon.
Things, inevitably, go from bad to worse. In the house and the outside world.
THE UNFOLDING is a low-budget British affair which was reportedly shot over a period of five years. Filmed on HD cameras by writer director Eugene McGing, I admire the determination and hard work involved in seeing a project such as this through to completion. The commitment to the cause is admirable.
Which makes it all the more distressing to have to report that the film has many, many flaws. It's not that it takes the over-saturated "found footage" look and adds nothing to the sub-genre (the looming threat of nuclear war is effectively an afterthought for the most part, and only serves to provide an utterly predictable final act). Nor is it that the use of various cameras results in varying visual quality.
No. I can overlook those factors. Rather, it's the often risible performances, the hackneyed dialogue and characters that simply aren't likeable. I mean, Tam earns few fans by being a complete shit to his frightened girlfriend; Harvey comes across as an arrogant wideboy - and clumsy comic relief - until it's too late for us to care about him; the late Kitty McGeever, in her final role, tries her best with a badly written role as a medium brought in, presumably in a last-minute bid to add even more cliché to an already by-the-numbers scenario.
And what's with the close-up edits mid-scene? The surveillance cameras didn't automatically add editing tricks, surely? Or background music to moments of "tension"?
Devoid of any sense of threat, even in its final moments (which is where a few films of this ilk redeem themselves, I appreciate that), THE UNFOLDING moved in totally expected motions for me, and did so without any inkling of ever deviating from what others have already established in superior examples of the genre in recent years. From THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT to AS ABOVE SO BELOW to THE BORDERLANDS to God-knows-what, these films are ten-a-penny and I didn't feel that there was anything here to distinguish THE UNFOLDING above the slew.
And I feel awful saying that about a home-grown film which has gestated and been planned and had such commitment applied to it. But it's not very good.
The film comes to UK DVD courtesy of ICON Entertainment, as part of their welcome FrightFest Presents series.
Uncut and benefiting from a faithful anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer, colours are muted as per the manner in which the film was shot but images are clear and clean as they should be. Blacks fare reasonably well; any flaws are due to the deliberate facade of low-res camera footage.
English audio gets the 2.0 and 5.1 treatment. Both offer solid propositions, as do the optional English subtitles.
An animated main menu page leads into a static scene selection menu allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.
The only film-related extra is an optional 2-minute video introduction from FrightFest organisers Alan Jones and Paul McEvoy. Their support for the film is both commendable and, in this context, somewhat convincing. While this lasts.
We also get trailers for CURTAIN, LAST GIRL STANDING, LANDMINE GOES CLICK and THE LESSON.
A solid disc for a lacklustre addition to the seemingly endless found-footage/faux documentary cycle.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Icon Entertainment|
|see main review|