Cinema Epoch // Unrated // $14.98 // March 12, 2013
Review by Bill Gibron | posted June 21, 2013
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Just this past month (June), Magnet Releasing gave fans a second helping of their franchise in the making found footage tribute to all things video cassette, V/H/S/2, and among the insanely entertaining vignettes in same was something called "Slumber Party Alien Abduction." Focusing on a group of teens and pre-teens trying to prank each other during a typical Summer sleepover, the resulting 40 minute romp turned their hijinx into horror as evil extraterrestrials with kidnapping on their mind began a terrifying home invasion. We mention this because much of Unaware would like to be as effective and efficient as "SPAA." Though it came out in 2010, a good two years before Jason Eisener's anthology installment, it suffers from some of the many flaws that make the first person POV perspective so specious, cinematically speaking. Directors Sean Bardin and Robert Cooley have a good premise and plot, but the final result is still dull and lifeless.

In one of those moves meant to mimic the "was it all real" aspect of the initial Blair Witch Project brouhaha, a typical young couple (who are not credited, though we eventually learn their names are "Joel" and "Lisa") are taking a relaxing vacation trip out to his grandfather's house in the country. Noting that this will be a special occasion for both of them, he brings along a video camera to document everything. When they arrive at the isolated home, no one is there. Even worse, it looks like granddad won't be back for a while. Settling in, Joel asks Lisa to marry him. She says yes and they decide to watch a video.

Mentioning that grandpa had always "banned" him from the barn when he was a kid, our hero lumbers out into the yard, heads over to the locked building, and breaks in. Along with his gal pal, they discover a bunch of military equipment, granddad's previous life in the armed forces, and his connect to a Roswell like incident back in the day. Opening up another crate, they unleash something 'not of this world.' Hoping for help, Joel and Lisa contact the FBI. Sadly, it may be too late for that. Much too late.

For a while, Unaware works. Call it the inherent curiosity factor involved in the set-up or an old horror fan's willingness to give an otherwise nominal effort the benefit of the doubt. We really want to know why Grandpa consistently called the barn "off limits," what horrible thing "scares" our lead when he goes out looking under the padlocked door, and the resulting melee that will occur once the truth is uncovered and our space beasties are unleashed. Unfortunately, that final effort is a Joss Whedon Avengers's vacation folly - read: much ado about nothing. It's just some little kids in standard extraterrestrial garb running around, their visage peeking out of the corner of the camcorder frame. OOOOOOO - scary. By the time we get to the inevitable abandoned viewfinder shot, we no longer care about the narrative. Nothing before has set us up for such an abrupt sendoff, and the final shot makes little or no sense.

Even worse, Bardin and Cooley waste some decent atmosphere and dread within their initial sequences. When Joel walks up to the barn and starts hearing weird noises within, we can feel a few shivers rocketing up our spines. Better still are the moments when, once released, a shadowy figure makes his way around the 'unaware' occupants of the house. But none of that makes up for the wasted opportunities this film squanders. It takes far too long to get to the inside of the barn, and once there, Lisa is so whiny and unhelpful that you wish the aliens would do us a favor and get rid of her. Granted, Joel's laughable obsession with the place is not much better, but at least it's believable. The fact that they don't flee the moment they discover the thingy in the military crate (or confirm what they saw via a rewind of the tape...and then get the Hell out) derides all that comes later. Everything just goes downhill from there.

Offered up in a decent anamorphic widescreen image, Unaware does suffer a bit in the transfer department. This is probably because of the low budget leanings of the production and the less than professional handling of the camera. There is some pixelating, and lots of out of focus material. Rumor has it that there were some post issues (like footage being destroyed or compromised), but that doesn't explain everything about the 1.85:1 picture. On the sound side of things, it's all camcorder microphones and occasionally indecipherable dialogue. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is decent, if a little dull and lacking the kind of ambiance you except from a horror film. As for added content, we are treated to some deleted sequences, which is relatively non-essential, and some trailers. That's it. Apparently, Cinema Epoch is sticking with the "is it real" ideal throughout the marketing and release of the title. Such a cinematic shell game won't help.

When placed side by side against something as fun and frightening as "Slumber Party Alien Abduction," Unaware can't help but pale in comparison. It has a few moments of meaningful dread. The rest of the movie just squanders its premise's potential. Rent It.

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