Regaining one of our previously lost senses can open up entirely new worlds. But with the excitement of discovery, overload and anxiety can also follow. That’s very much the case in Shudder’s latest film The Unheard. Blending character drama/thriller with supernatural horror, it weaves a creative and creepy atmosphere, while (mostly) living up to its own potential.
A Whole New World
The Unheard follows Chloe (portrayed by Lachlan Watson, best known for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the Chucky TV series), a young woman who lost her hearing due to meningitis when she was younger. She’s participating in an experimental trial for a procedure that manages to restore her hearing entirely.
In addition to the overwhelming nature of suddenly hearing everything again and the adjustments that come with that, Chloe also begins to have auditory hallucinations that begin to terrify her. They hearken back to a potentially preexisting trauma and mental health issues. In the end, things take darker and darker turns until we’re entering the fringes of supernatural horror.
The Eye Meets Crimson Peak
For those familiar with early 2000’s Asian horror (or the American remakes that followed), the basic premise admittedly sounds a bit similar to the 2002 Hong Kong horror film The Eye (as well as its subpar 2008 American remake). That movie followed a blind woman that received a corneal transplant to regain her vision, but in doing so she begins to see horrific visions of ghosts.
The Unheard feels like a similar premise with restored vision swapped out for restored hearing. It’s impossible for any movie to exist in a complete vacuum. Although we’ll try our best to judge this one without comparing it to The Eye. That said, if we do compare the two, The Eye remains a classic to this day and it’s unlikely The Unheard will gain the same status. It’s also unclear whether that was an intentional inspiration or pure coincidence.
Without getting too into spoiler territory, The Unheard follows a really interesting trope where the “supernatural” elements aren’t necessarily the evil ones, and they serve as more of a warning to the protagonist against the threat of dangerous humans. Yes, it’s technically another trope, but it’s one that hasn’t been done quite often enough yet that it loses what makes it unique and interesting.
So much of supernatural horror is so quick to paint ghosts as terrifying, but if we consider that the existence of ghosts implies that those we love live on after death, it actually becomes rather comforting. There are reports of people in near death experiences who claim that they either see or feel the presence of loved ones who have died, there to comfort them and give them strength. And this movie dabbles into that theme as well.
The movie itself has really cool ideas, but feels limited by its budget and scope. It’s a very internal story both literally and thematically. The movie is at its best when it’s disorienting its audience just as much as it is the protagonist Chloe. There are times that we’re not sure if what she’s experiencing is real or a hallucination. That said, it feels like it’s never going as far as it could with a lot of its ideas and scenes.
Its third act is a bit frustrating, because it builds up to what could have been an interesting and terrifying reveal, but it feels like there wasn’t a lot of time to shoot, so the whole thing lacks the same creative energy and cinematography the earlier parts had.
That said, Lachlan Watson does an amazing job of playing a character caught between two worlds and unsure of herself. With a low budget horror drama that’s mostly focused on its main character, there was a lot riding on this performance and Watson demonstrated why they’re already a force to be reckoned with in the genre. With popular turns on two iconic TV shows, hopefully this leads to more work in movies.
Again, it’s not a bad movie, it just feels like it doesn’t really know where it’s going. It’s great at building mood and suspense, but doesn’t really have the substance. Director Jeffrey A. Brown is best known for another Shudder original, The Beach House. Likewise, that film relished in its atmosphere, but its lack of substance was made up by the fear of the unknown that came with the Lovecraft-inspired story. Here, that doesn’t work quite as well.
Overall, The Unheard has a decent premise that it does an okay job with. But it’s worth watching alone for the tension, as well as Lachlan Watson’s lead performance. It’s not the best Shudder original, but it’s far from the worst.
What do you think of The Unheard? Let us know in the comments!
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