Sometimes the most enjoyable movies are the ones you know very little about. All too often these days Hollywood decides to put all the best bits in trailers and by the time you watch the film you’ve already seen most of it. Comedies are generally the worst offenders by far. Every so often it’s nice to just go into a film with a vague idea of what it might be based on a name and a poster and have a pure experience where you’re surprised at every step. The Unseen is one of those that focuses on a tempting enough poster, a curious title and a concept that tries to stand out from the crowd. When our movie schedules are full of sequels and big franchises each and every year it’s good to see something a little different once in a while.
The Unseen is written and directed by Gary Sinyor, a man who clearly understands what it takes to play with an audience and build up tension. No matter what the budget is on a film, something like anticipation and dread can be created so easily as long as you know your viewers. His cuts and visual style work perfectly with Jim Barne’s score. This isn’t a project that relied on big names or that Hollywood glossy presentation but instead gives us a heartbreaking story and an interesting visual concept that will play with your perceptions. It’s a decent attempt at a twist on your typical thriller and it keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
That’s not to say that The Unseen is the most original and unpredictable movie I’ve ever seen. If I’m honest, I’ve watched a lot like this and knew what to expect as I went along. Yet it felt like that was deliberate in a way. That they weren’t trying to shock you with ridiculous twists but actually play on your expectations and make you dread what you know is coming. Right from the start with Gemma (Jasmine Hyde) and her son you know something’s going to happen. You’re just waiting for it to kick everything off. Once it does it really causes problems for Gemma and her eyesight in particular, going through panic attacks and losing clear vision. We witness things through her eyes and Sinyor’s direction plays with this to disorientate and confuse us.
Richard Flood as Gemma’s husband Will delivers a well balanced performance as a man grieving for his son and struggling with that loss. It doesn’t take much to make such an upsetting subject matter be emotional but both Flood and Hyde make the characters sympathetic and their reactions understandable and believable. That’s always the important thing when treading risky ground such as the loss of a child and here its dealt with respectfully and doesn’t enter too much into unrealistic storytelling. Hyde makes for an impressive lead, capturing the emotional roller-coaster of a strong independent woman blaming herself for an accident and her battle to survive in a now devastated world. The film doesn’t need much more than that and doesn’t resort to anything too crazy for cheap scares.
The dynamic is driven by another man involved in the storyline who comes to Gemma’s aid when she needs it most. Paul (Simon Cotton) seems to be the nicest guy possible, helping her in every way and conveniently being around when he’s needed the most. But as an audience we know things are never quite that straight forward and so we just wait for things to unravel and for the fun to begin. Cotton plays charming and scary well in equal measures and juggles well the personality on the surface with something a little more sinister underneath. It’s not only a look into the psychology of grief but of reliance on other people and who you should put your trust in. This couple has enough to deal with without any additional pain.
Without wanting to spoil too much, The Unseen offers a solid and thought-provoking subject matter wrapped up in an provocative and challenging mystery. The focus on a strong story and a capable cast means The Unseen you can forgive the low budget and the occasional bit of nonsense because on the whole it’s a movie worth watching. You can’t help but wonder what Gary Sinyor may be capable of in the future if he can move on to bigger and better things, and the main cast certainly all deserve to sink their teeth into more ambitious projects in upcoming years. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see Jasmine Hyde’s name pop up again soon. The Unseen is just the beginning.
Dir: Gary Sinyor
Music: Jim Barne
Starring: Jasmine Hyde, Richard Flood, Simon Cotton
Runtime: 108 mins
The Unseen is out December 15th