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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Unborn
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Posted July 05 2009 - 12:07 PM
Film Year: 2009
Film Length: 1 hour 28 mins (Theatrical Cut), 1 hour 29 mins (Unrated Cut)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
BD Resolution: 1080p
BD Video Codec: VC-1 @ over 30 mpbs
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 @ an average 4.0 mbps
Spanish DTS 5.1
French DTS 5.1
French (Canada) DTS 5.1
German DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, French (Canada), German
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
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 Unborn is being released simultaneously on Blu-ray and standard definition this Tuesday. Both editions are identical, except that the Blu-ray has the high definition transfer in picture and sound, a bookmarking function and BD-Live access. On the Blu-ray, the picture and sound are both quite good, with the picture benefiting from some beautiful winter photography and the sound mix doing its best to jolt the viewer whenever possible. 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.
VIDEO QUALITY 3 ½/5
The Unborn is presented in a 1080p VC-1 2.40:1 transfer that does very well with the various environments and flesh tones on display throughout the film. The wintry exteriors come off particularly well in the various sequences of Odette Yustman out jogging. (There is a repeated overhead image of her jogging across a bridge that looks quite beautiful.)
AUDIO QUALITY 3/5
The Unborn is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English, as well as standard DTS mixes in Spanish, French, French Canadian and German. The English 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. You’ll know when this is coming because the soundtrack always gets really quiet, and then just as they think you’re lowering your guard, POW! For this reason, I don’t recommend turning up the volume when this gets quiet unless you like rattling your windows. I should note that there are some interesting and effective mix choices during the various scares, including voices being relocated from the usual front channels into the surrounds.
SPECIAL FEATURES 1/5
The Blu-Ray presentation of The Unborn really has only one special feature, that being the 6 ½ minutes of scene extensions, presented in high definition. And there is the usual BD-Live and “My Scenes” functionality.
Deleted Scenes (6:37, 1080p) – 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.
BD-Live - This Blu-ray includes access to Universal’s BD-Live online site, allowing for the viewing of trailers online.
Subtitles are available for the film and the special features. A full chapter menu is available for the film. The Blu-ray menus also include the “My Scenes” bookmarking feature and a BD-Live User Guide.
IN THE END...
The Unborn is ultimately not that interesting of a story or that effective of a film. 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.
July 5, 2009.