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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Unborn (Blu-ray)
The Unborn (Blu-ray)
Universal // Unrated // July 7, 2009 // Region A
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 6, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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"Jomby wants to be born now."

Wait, the genie from Pee-Wee's Playhouse?

The Unborn is the first original
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horror flick to come down the pipeline from Platinum Dunes, but that's "original" wrapped in sarcastic-fingerquotes. David Goyer -- y'know, the writer of Kickboxer 2: The Road Back and Dollman vs. Demonic Toys...oh, and the director behind Blade: Trinity and The Invisible -- is pretty much sticking to the standard issue, PG-13 J-horror playbook. Some foxy, embattled chick is haunted by chalk-faced, ghostly tykes, a couple of the pretzel-limbed undead are tossed in to liven up all the other lazy "boo!" jump scares, our plucky heroine investigates whatever dark, sticky secret is to blame for the haunting, and it all leads up to a big showdown followed by the "did we get 'im...?" death scene and a sting where you're horrified to learn that it's not over yet. Oh, but David Goyer has a dog-eared copy of The Zohar on his nightstand, so I guess Jewish mysticism is the hook this time around. Think The Grudge meets The Exorcist, whack it in the head with one of those crab hammer things twenty or thirty times, and the bloody, pulpy mess splattered all over the linoleum is pretty much The Unborn.

Odette Yustman steps into the role of The Girl this time around. Casey's been plagued by nightmares about some kid with icy blue eyes, a pit bull sporting a 4th grade art project mask, and a fetus bobbing around in a jar of formaldehyde, but those...gulp!...horrors are starting to creep into her waking life too. Instead of getting eggs sunny-side-up, there's a big-ass ant inside the shell. Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!! Casey's just trying to take notes in whatever generic college auditorium she's piled into when one of the VFX guys discovers the Melt filter in AfterEffects and there's another big-ass ant. Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!! Those notes, by the way...? "Jomby wants to be born now" is all over 'em Jack Torrance-style. Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!! Oh! And when she's babysitting the kids next door, one of the little bastards slices her face with one of those palm-sized mirrors I haven't seen since Perfect Strangers was still on. Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!! A leftover pit bull from a DMX video and an incontinent retiree with upside-down heads! A Jewish demon kid stuffed in the medicine cabinet! A nightclub toilet overflowing with poop and even more big-ass ants! ...and me without a nightlight. Aaaaaaaahhhhhh, aaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!, and aaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!

Tedious. Derivative. Agonizingly dull. Devoid of anything in the same time zone as tension, suspense, or the faintest glimmer of creativity. I would say that The Unborn churns out one lazy jump scare after another, only it usually bridges 'em with another fifteen or twenty minutes of a teary-eyed Casey seeking out the truth. When they're telegraphed this far in advance, do they even qualify as jump scares? Pretty much every scene that's supposed to pass for horror has the music fade out, Casey (or one of her soon-to-be-slaughtered pals) slo-o-o-o-o-o-o-owly walking towards someone or something in dead silence, and you're stuck waiting for the seconds to tick down until some low-rent-CG-enhanced ghostie pops out.

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what's good...? Odette Yustman makes up for her stilted, junior-high-drama-club line readings by spilling out of her panties, and that's gotta count for something. A couple of Dexter alums are on the payroll with quick cameos. At least Goyer has the taste to cast the likes of Idris Elba (who gets to add this to his résumé of unwatchable horror flicks like The Reaping and the not-really-a-remake of Prom Night) and Gary Oldman as the exorcists. I guess there's something to be said for going the Jewish exorcism route rather than trot down the Catholic path once again, and I've been saying for a while now that I wanna see Gary Oldman bleat on an oversized ram's horn. Oh, that, and a horror flick that has Stringer Bell carding a college student and then asking her to sign and initial an exorcism waiver. I didn't even mention that Goyer manages to squeeze in a bit part with Josef Mengele, the butcher who's to blame for the Dybbuk being unleashed on this mortal coil. Yes, there's an "Angel of Death" scene with kids in a concentration camp. Wow.

I guess the short version is that no, The Unborn really is not very good at all. Insert your own distasteful joke about a miscarriage or an abortion here. Skip It.

This Blu-ray disc serves up both the PG-13 theatrical cut and an unrated version that was too shocking for theaters! The smart money says a few seconds of a sex scene where all you see is her douchey boyfriend's back would at worst slink by with an R rating, but...whatever. I couldn't spot any other differences at a glance between the two cuts of the flick, and considering that there's nothing particularly extreme or shocking in the unrated version as it is...yeah.

Oh well. At least it's pretty.

Shot anamorphic rather than going the Super35 route, some stretches of The Unborn are a touch soft, but the scope image is generally crisp enough and still nicely detailed throughout. This Blu-ray disc also sports meaty contrast, robust black levels, and a punchy three-dimensional pop. Its palette skews mostly toward cold, icy hues because...well, it's a modern horror flick, so it's either that or drench everything in a sickly, bile-tinged yellow. Since The Unborn is a day-and-date release culled from a digital intermediate and everything, it kinda goes without saying that there's no speckling or wear to get in the way. As much as I'll bitch about...oh, let's go with every other thing about this disc, I really don't have any gripes to aim at its presentation in high-def.

Despite the minimal differences between the two cuts of The Unborn, Universal opted not to lean on seamless branching this time around, and there are instead two separate VC-1 encodes on this BD-50 disc. Both of 'em look identical to me.

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Horror flicks are almost always packing obnoxiously hyperaggressive soundtracks, but the 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio on The Unborn is kinda timid. Yeah, it belts out the usual eighteen megaton jump scares and all, but the bass hardly ever rattles the room, the surrounds are pretty much limited to light atmospheric color, and the dialogue has that off-kilter, vintage Eurohorror dub feel where it almost seems detached from the visuals. Sure, there's some directionality -- creaking floors, Romy plowing into a kid with her sedan, and the exorcism money shots -- but if you're saddled with nothing but a stereo rig, you're not missing out on much this time around. I'm kind of surprised how indistinct the effects are in The Unborn's more violent stretches too. I've been spoiled by gaggles of lossless tracks where I can clearly pick out each and every sound in the mix, but things sound much more muddled together here. Kinda mediocre all around.

There are also lossy DTS dubs in Spanish, French (garden variety and the Quebeçois flavor), and German. Subtitles are also served up in each of those languages along with a stream in English (SDH).

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  • Deleted Scenes (6 min.; HD): Um, not much: a jump scare with an old guy at the nursing home, Romy trying to cheer up her pal with a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Casey's professor telling her that he spotted some blue-eyed tyke sitting next to her in the library (Oh no! That was the Dybbuk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), a graveside visit to Moms complete with the obligatory Idyllic Childhood Flashback, and one completely insignificant addition tacked onto the epilogue.
...and that'd be it. This is a BD-Live enabled disc, but there's nothing lurking in the shadows online aside from plugs for other Universal stuff. The Unborn comes packaged with a shiny, embossed slipcase for anyone keeping track at home.

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The Final Word
I would make some really obvious crack about The Unborn being a cinematic abortion, but I think I'd rather just belt out a bold, italicized "Skip It" and move on with my life. So...yeah. Skip It.

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