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DVD Review HTF DVD REVIEW: The Unborn

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Kevin EK, Jul 14, 2009.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Well-Known Member

    May 9, 2003
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    Studio: Universal
    Film Year: 2009
    Film Length: 1 hour 28 mins (Theatrical Cut), 1 hour 29 mins (Unrated Cut)
    Genre: Horror
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    Color/B&W: Color
    English Dolby Digital 5.1
    Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
    French Dolby Digital 5.1
    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
    Film Rating: PG-13 and Unrated, Respectively (Language, Sexuality, Violence, Disturbing Imagery)
    Release Date: July 7, 2009
    Starring: Odette Yustman, Gary Oldman, Meagan Good, Cam Gigandet, James Remar, Jane Alexander and Idris Elba
    Written and Directed by: David S. Goyer
    SPECIAL NOTE: Much of the content of this review previously appeared in my evaluation of the Blu-ray edition. I have edited this review to deal with the standard definition release, but my comments about the film itself are still applicable.
    Film Rating:    1 ½/5
    In a really effective horror film, there is a kind of nightmare logic that supersedes normal continuity and makes it possible for the audience to accept something completely unreal (and scary) time after time. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those times, and The Unborn isn’t one of those effective horror films. Instead, it’s a fairly drawn-out ghost story, even at less than 90 minutes, which provides occasional jolts but makes very little sense even as it unfolds. The story follows Odette Yustman as a young woman haunted by a dybbuk in both her dreams and her waking moments, which results in multiple scenes of her being confronted with strange nightmarish visions until she can seek help. There are elements here that could have been promising – some ideas about twins and Nazi experimentation, as well as the notion of a family curse pursuing the women of one family across three generations – but they aren’t played out for anything other than short-term scare effects. And, as a final poke at the viewer, the film ends on an inexplicable note that prompts more of a response of “Huh?!!!” than the dread that the filmmakers intended.
    The Unbornwas released simultaneously on Blu-ray and standard definition last Tuesday. The standard definition edition features solid picture and sound, showing the fine craftsmanship that went into the technical aspects of the film.  The only special feature available on either edition is a brief collection of scene extensions and snippets totalling around 6 ½ minutes. There’s nothing particularly special about any of these scenes of which to speak. Also, the film is presented in both its original theatrical cut, and in an unrated cut that adds one minute to the running time but does nothing to carry the film any farther than the initial PG-13 rating.   To be honest, there’s nothing integral about the additional footage and it would probably have been a better idea to just include that minute in the deleted scenes section and save everyone the time.   Given the shortcomings of this film, I cannot in good conscience recommend it – even to fans of the actors in this film. 
    The Unborn is presented in an anamorphic 2.40:1 transfer that, like the Blu-ray edition, does very well with the various environments and flesh tones on display throughout the film.  I continue to be impressed by the snowy exterior footage and the sense of cold portrayed throughout the film. (The last film that visually portrayed such intense cold to me was The Dead Zone.)
    The Unborn is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English, Spanish, and French. The mix comes to life whenever a scare is at hand, usually with the subwoofer and the surrounds joining in the fun of yelling “Boo!” at the viewer. As in the Blu-ray edition, there are some interesting and effective mix choices during the various scares, including voices being relocated from the usual front channels into the surrounds. (One good example of this comes early, in a classroom scene where we get yet another visit by our friend the evil spirit…)
    The SD DVD presentation of The Unborn really has only one special feature, that being the 6 ½ minutes of scene extensions, presented in anamorphic widescreen.  
    Deleted Scenes (6:37, Anamorphic) – Roughly 6 ½ minutes of short scene additions and extensions are included, none of which adds anything particularly memorable or crucial to the story. The scenes are presented in a single grouping, with no individual scene access. 
    Subtitles are available for the film and the special features. A full chapter menu is available for the film.
    When you first put the DVD in the player, you are shown a series of non-anamorphic previews for Bring It On: Fight to the Finish, Friday Night Lights: The Third SeasonLife: Season One, Frost/Nixon, and the animated feature 9, along with the usual anti-smoking PSA.
    IN THE END...
    The Unborn is ultimately not that interesting of a story or that effective of a film. As I noted with the Blu-ray release, the audio/video presentation is fine, but without any underlying content, there’s not much for it to present other than the occasional nice exterior shot in the snow. And since the only special feature here is a few minutes of non-essential scenes, there isn’t anything I can recommend for viewing here. 
    Kevin Koster
    July 14, 2009. (Revised SD review based on July 5, 2009 Blu-ray review)

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