The Unseen (2016) – Film Review
Director: Gary Sinyor
Cast: Richard Flood, Simon Cotton, Jasmine Hyde
by Ashleigh Millman
It’s a good job Gary Sinyor titled his film The Unseen, as there’s nothing to be found when it comes to an interesting and engaging plot. Stretched out to a painful almost-two-hours and full of pointless interactions that entirely miss the mark of an intense thriller, The Unseen is a let down – even though it disguises itself as something much better for the most part.
Equipped with a perfectly isolated setting, three actors getting their best job done, and a unique selling point in Gemma’s (Jasmine Hyde) freak blindness, The Unseen should be a neat little film with a twist. It has all the ingredients to make the perfect cake, and after slowly mixing them together for an hour, continues to slowly mix them, and mix them, before throwing the whole batter on the floor and giving up. It feels like I’m overreacting whilst writing this as there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the filming – but it’s frustrating to see so much potential wasted in terms of narrative.
The story follows Gemma and her husband Will (Richard Flood) dealing with the death of their young son. Unsure how to handle his passing and suffering from blindness induced by panic attacks, Gemma decides to take them both away to a guest house owned by Paul (Simon Cotton). Whilst starting off as a touching exploration of grief and human suffering, the film loses traction very quickly by taking its characters off in exaggerated directions.
Will thinks he can hear their son in the walls, talking to him in his room. Understandably, this drives him around the bend, as he can’t bear the thought of losing touch with Joel whilst staying at the guest house. His deterioration is presented as flipping like a switch, altering the kind, gentle, but suffering man into an arrogant and rude pain in the ass. Then he makes a pentagram out of tealights on a felt play mat. What? Paul is much the same in having an instantaneous breakdown that isn’t explained properly before coming into full swing, making the latter half of the film feel rushed after a dawdling introduction.
Gemma is no different, and I found myself unconcerned by what happened to her at the end of the film from just being genuinely bored of her going back and forth. Her condition was pointless as it was never used to convey anything scary or intriguing, instead it was relegated to a novelty to prop the end of the film upon. There was plenty that could have been done, or at least toyed with to give the film some atmosphere – but instead it felt like a continuous waiting game for anything to happen.
I would argue that there’s some colour grading issues, as it doesn’t quite match from scene to scene; though the rest of the cinematography is impressively executed. The film takes full advantage of its excellent location when shooting in the open, which is to its advantage for reinforcing the lonely, sprawling landscape that reflects upon the couple’s grief. The story in any other hands would be entirely scoff-able, but it at least has some technical skill in presenting its lacklustre ideas.
All in all, The Unseen is, again, frustrating. I wish it was better – I would love to see a really creepy film about death and blindness and the human condition that signposts its intentions well and feels genuinely exhilarating to get through. This film needs some clever editing and a long, hard rethink on its ending messages – at the very least.