The Unwanted (Kino Lorber, NR)

unwanted 75Nothing says “gothic” like woods and fog, and when you add in some crazed Christianity and deadly weapons, something twisted seems guaranteed to happen.

 

 

 

unwanted 500Setting a retelling of Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla,” an early vampire novella, in rural Georgia seems like a natural fit. In fact, one of the strongest points of the retelling, Bret Wood’s The Unwanted, is how well the film exploits natural features of the setting. In addition, the expert cinematography by Chris Tsambis helps make the visual aspects of this film highly effective. After all, nothing says “gothic” like woods and fog, and when you add in some crazed Christianity and deadly weapons, something twisted seems guaranteed to happen.

The Unwanted begins with the arrival of Carmilla (a very butch-looking Christen Orr) in a small southern town. She’s trying to track down information about her mother, a quest that leads her to the home of the grizzled Troy (William Katt), who is unhelpful and dismissive. However, Troy’s daughter Laura (Hannah Fierman) takes an immediate liking to Carmilla and offers to help her in her search, including letting her stay for a few days in a trailer owned by her dad.

It’s obvious that Troy is not telling the truth, and to viewers who are a bit older, it’s also obvious that Carmilla and Laura share an attraction that is more than just friendly. It’s also obvious that there are secrets to be revealed, and even if you haven’t read Le Fanu you can probably guess what at least one of them will be. The Unwanted plays out more like a suspense film or detective story than a true horror film, peeling back the layers of deceptions and revealing the truth bit by bit. Although, there are certainly some bloody scenes and a couple of good jump scares, including a real gut-punch near the end.

Sometimes a film can succeed primarily due to the atmosphere it creates, but it’s a tough act to pull off. Unfortunately, The Unwanted doesn’t quite succeed. The main problem is the script (also by Wood), which puts unconvincing lines into the mouths of a hard-working crew of actors and requires them too often to behave in ways that defy normal behavior. Another problem is the repeated use of flashbacks that are both acted and narrated, which feel like they belong in a cheap television documentary rather than a feature film.

More significantly, The Unwanted fails to find a comfortable balance between the ordinary, everyday awfulness of the characters’ lives and the otherworldly sense imparted by the most effective scenes (which were based on visuals rather than dialogue). On the plus side, I appreciated the director’s choice to ground the story in an identifiable modern setting and to give consideration to the role poverty and isolation can play in how people behave.

Extras on the disc include a “making-of” documentary, Wood’s short film The Other Half (definitely worth watching, and in fact a stronger film that The Unwanted), deleted scenes, and two trailers. | Sarah Boslaugh

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply