Film Review: The Unborn

A pretty young woman who looks especially fetching in her underwear is plagued by increasingly horrible least, she thinks they're dreams until her whole life goes to hell. Some effective chills amidst the silliness.

Though she lost her mother to suicide following a long battle with mental illness, Casey Beldon (Odette Yustman) is a normal, upper-middle-class Chicago college student. She has a handsome boyfriend (Cam Gigandet, one of Twilight’s bad vampires); a bubbly best friend (Meagan Good); and a doting father (James Remar). Then the dreams begin: a deformed, living fetus in a jar; a dog wearing a human mask; a zombie child with unnaturally blue eyes. Casey isn't superstitious and she's too well-adjusted to freak out over silly things like nightmares; she even keeps her cool when young Matty (Atticus Shaffer, poised to corner the market in creepy kids for the next couple of years), the neighbor child she babysits, starts going all Damien on her, standing balefully outside her window, muttering vaguely threatening things and eventually hauling off and smacking her in the face with a pocket mirror.

It's when Casey finds one of her brown eyes turning blue that she starts to worry, and a trip to the doctor (C.S. Lee of TV's “Dexter”) raises more questions than it answers. He asks whether she's a twin, and suggests that DNA mixing in utero might be behind the unusual pigmentation. To her astonishment, Casey learns from her dad that the answer is yes: She had a fraternal twin brother who died before birth. And from there it's down a rabbit hole that leads to the grandmother she never knew, Dr. Mengele's concentration camp experiments, and the legend of the dybbuk, an unquiet spirit born of Jewish folklore but more than happy to possess dumb Americans who know everything about social networking and nothing about how to find a rabbi with demon-banishing experience.

The Unborn is the first original project from Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes company, which remade The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hitcher, The Amityville Horror and the upcoming Friday the 13th, though "original" is a relative term. Writer-director David S. Goyer’s screenplay borrows heavily from The Exorcist (including a spiffy twist on the famous "spider walk") and various Asian horror films featuring child ghosts; the film's muddy, grayish-green palette is a Platinum Dunes hallmark; and once again, on top of everything else, those damned Nazis shoulder the blame for opening a Pandora's box of supernatural freakiness on the world. Goyer stages some efficient suspense sequences, but by the time the inevitable and admirably interdenominational exorcism rolls around, the film has succumbed to unintentional silliness.