‘The Unborn’ movie review: Gary Oldman in a Jewish spin on The Exorcist

David S. Goyer’s The Unborn is yet another unwatchable Exorcist variation, this time with a Jewish twist: the evil spirit is a dybbuk, brought into existence during a WWII concentration camp experiment. Or something like that. 

Despite the endless exposition in the film, I was never really sure what was going on, or what the rules were concerning the dybbuk, who jumps from body to body and creates evils real or imagined, depending on the contrivance of the script.

I appreciated The Unborn for a very short while, as Goyer wastes no time jumping right into things: the very first scene has Casey Beldon (Odette Yustman) haunted by a small child, then a dog with an upside-down head, and then – ah, it’s all a dream. 

You might expect the usual exposition at the beginning, who this girl is, who her friends Romy (Meagan Good) and Mark (Cam Gigandet) are, but the film is all ghosts and jump scares for a good half hour with almost no context to put them in. 

Then we get the ridiculous holocaust backstory, an unfortunately laughable mire from which the film never returns, delivered by Jane Alexander, no less. I did love the scene where Casey asks a rabbi (Gary Oldman) for an exorcism. Reminds me of a joke I once heard. I was a little less amused when the exorcism was actually performed.

The film goes on and on about the evil spirit, and twins, and eye color, and mirrors – it seems to run down every last cliché you might find in a film like this. I just saw a film called Mirrors, where they go around smashing mirrors to keep the evil spirit out; why am I watching Casey smashing mirrors again here, where it seemingly has nothing to do with her evil spirit?

The upside-down heads are pretty creepy though, I’ll give the film that – if only they were accomplished with a less-obvious use of CGI.

Goyer wrote the Blade movies, and Batman Begins, and Dark City, which is a masterpiece as far as I’m concerned – what happened here? And why did he take this respectable cast down with him? I felt embarrassed for Oldman and Alexander and especially Idris Elba (unforgettable as Stringer Bell on HBO’s The Wire), who is mostly wasted, then CGIfied as the evil spirit takes over his body and he becomes the big bad black man trying to violate our heroine.

Goyer also wrote Demonic Toys and Kickboxer 2, both of which I have seen and cannot recommend more highly over The Unborn.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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