Maya (Hannah John-Kamen) and Jamie (Douglas Booth) are a young couple who we see going through a terrible ordeal at the start of this movie. So when Jamie is informed that he has inherited a house in Ireland it seems as if things are looking up. There’s only one catch, explained to them by a local woman. An offering has to be left out every night for the little people. A bit of liver or some other raw meat, making it a blood offering. Maya and Jamie roll their eyes at this idea, but decide to go along with it. They have just been given a house, it’s the least they can do. And it may end up saving them when they end up inadvertently hiring the wrong family of builders to work on renovating their home.
Directed by Jon Wright, who once again worked with Mark Stay on the script (the two also co-wrote Robot Overlords), Unwelcome is a horror movie laced with moments of comedy that sadly fails to get the balance right. And it’s not as if Wright shouldn’t be able to handle the mix, given how well he did with the wonderful Grabbers.
The problems start with the script, which spectacularly fails to give you anything that feels plausible, as well as making the main characters too annoying to root for. But you have to root for Maya because she’s pregnant. Okay, the themes of motherhood and protection run through the entire the film, but I still cannot help feeling that making a main character pregnant is an easy and lazy way to force viewers to be on their side.
Things aren’t helped by the weak acting from our leads. I have seen John-Kamen and Booth give decent performances in other works, but they are both quite poor in this, with the latter suffering from the script going too far to show his inability to be the protector that his partner needs. In fact, almost every decision that is made by Booth’s character makes any situation worse, and I spent a lot of the movie hoping to see him be killed off, which I don’t think was the intention of the film-makers. The antagonists do a much better job though, headed up by a fun Colm Meaney. He is the patriarch (“call me Daddy”) and has fun as he weaves between being jovial and menacing. His children are played by Kristian Nairn, Chris Walley, and Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, with the latter being the best of the bunch, and getting away with a bit more inappropriate behaviour as she toys with the new man in the village. Niamh Cusack also has a small role, but she is leading a supporting cast of players who all seem to have been pulled from the “to be sure, to be sure, shamrocks and shillelaghs, every green-eyed Irish stereotype casting company”. The dialogue and character types populating the rest of the movie will have many cringing with embarrassment.
There’s a 5-10 minute segment in the third act that hints at how good this could have been. It feels fun, there are some entertaining bits of bloodshed, and the effects work well enough for what the film wants to show. That’s all you get though, and that glimpse of something better just makes the rest of the film all the worse. It’s really bad. I sincerely hope that Wright gets back on track with whatever he directs next.
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