Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Directed by: Gary Sinyor
Starring: Richard Flood, Jasmine Hyde, Simon Cotton
There is a moment where The Unseen subtly sets up the upcoming dread to come: as Paul (Simon Cotton) shows Gemma (Jasmine Hyde) and Will (Richard Flood) around his Lake District house, he reveals you can only get a mobile signal in a tiny corner of the room with the highest window. Writer-director Gary Sinyor shows how isolated the house is while setting the stage for a horrifying third act. There’s just one problem, everything about The Unseen is underdeveloped. The payoff to the smart piece of foreshadowing isn’t satisfying as the film runs from its juicy camp gothic premise. It is the movie equivalent of the kid in class your teacher tried to make them fulfil their full potential.
It disappointingly plays like a first draft as the actors, especially Hyde and Cotton, try making the most of what they are given. Paul successfully remains an enigma, the only concrete bit of information given away is that he has a good taste in knitted jumpers, and Hyde sews in intricate details when performing Gemma’s escalating grief.
Thematically, The Unseen is strongest when exploring how Gemma and Will deal with the death of their son, who is cleverly left offscreen, fulfilling the title’s promise. Will’s choice to embrace religion and Gemma’s indignation at this makes sense – in times of hardship, the idea of God can be comforting and baffling – but this observation grows from its realistic beginnings into pure movie fantasy with the introduction of satanic plots and the titular hook that Gemma has random bursts of blindness.Described by the doctor as panic attacks, Sinyor visualises her lapses with a blurry lens. It’s a simple but obvious solution that doesn’t fully capture how terrifying these attacks would be. The visuals are flat and grey, often coming across like a rather miserable episode of Midsummer Murders instead of the Hitchcockian homage it clearly wants to be.
The camerawork and editing is low energy; a scene where Gemma improvises an escape deflates its inherent tension by being lackadaisically constructed. Its timing is off, its composition is too standard to heighten emotion and, for a simple moment of a character going up the stairs, it is too baggy to work. It’s a moment that could have been generally scary if more attention and time were paid to the particulars.
This is why The Unseen ends up disappointing. It squanders its potential. The ideas in the story are gripping and speak to the apparently important human condition. But its clumsy execution makes the revelations more WTF than OMG as you question the movie’s internal logic. Character relationships change too fast, scary moments end up being funny, and everything is bland – it’s best if this British film remains *ahem* unseen.