Casey (Odette Yustman) can bet things will go from bad to worse when, during her daily jog, she sees a scary little boy turn into an ugly dog wearing a mask. One might think the adolescent would run away screaming but—typical for a fearful female in a teen horror film—she instead follows the masquerading mutt deep into the dark woods. There she finds something even more disturbing—a fetus in a jar of formaldehyde. Okay, we better cut Casey some slack because it turns out she didn’t consciously follow the dog. It is all just a dream. Yet what can it mean? A quick iChat on her Apple MacBook with built in iSight (yes… the product placements are that obvious) quickly connects her to a reliable source (or not) of information—her superstitious friend Romy (Meagan Good).
Cut to the obligatory babysitting scene required of every movie in this genre. Hearing strange sounds coming from the nursery monitor, Casey creeps upstairs and discovers her charge looks exactly like the scary, evil child she saw on the pathway. The resulting fright factor gives the jittery girl another excuse to invite her beefy boyfriend (Cam Gigandet) to sleep over when her widowed father heads out of town. Unfortunately his protection doesn’t manage to keep things from getting worse (are we surprised?), and Casey continues to find opportunities to scream and prance around in her very tight underwear (an image the studio must have considered a big enough attraction to have it appear on the promotional poster).
Meanwhile, a plot the size of a postage stamp unfolds leading to a mysterious Jewish woman (Jane Alexander) who lives in what appears to be a woefully understaffed care facility. She informs Casey of a “dybbuk” (a cultural word used to describe a spirit taking possession of another person’s body) that occurred after a boy was sent to die at a Nazi extermination camp. Even though Casey is a non-practicing Jew, she is quickly convinced an exorcism is the only way to be rid of the ghoulish faces and eerie sounds that are haunting her. However, it is not quite as easy to persuade the skeptical Rabbi Sendak (Gary Oldman) that demons are truly among them.
Along with pathetic acting, a script riddled with clichés, and every “made you jump” trick learned in Filmmaking 101, this production wanders into areas uncomfortable on other levels too—like fabricating a ghost story out of the Holocaust. People are depicted as acting under the influence of evil spirits, which causes them to engage in aggressive physical confrontations involving stabbing, choking and disfiguring their bodies. As well, it contains infrequent profanities (including a single strong sexual expletive) and sexual innuendo, plus implied sexual relations between an unmarried couple.
The Unborn‘s only redeeming feature is that it is mercifully short (only 86 minutes). Releasing in the first few days of 2009, the film might also be pronounced this year’s Ungreatest —a title that may well persist long into the New Year.