The Unseen, 2017.
Directed by Gary Sinyor.
Starring Jasmine Hyde, Richard Flood, and Simon Cotton.
The loss of their young son in a tragic accident devastates Will and Gemma. She starts having panic attacks and he is convinced he hears their little boy talking to him. On the suggestion of their new friend, Paul, they go to stay in his Lake District getaway, in search of some peace and quiet. The break, they believe, will do them good.
It doesn’t take much to trigger a memory – the slightest of smells, an image or, in the case of Will and Gemma (Richard Flood and Jasmine Hyde), a sound. A piece of music, a squeaky wheel on a bike: they come out of the blue and they all connect them to their son Joel. His accidental death has shattered their well-ordered lives and, for his mum, those sounds set off serious panic attacks, ones which affect her sight. Dad, Will, on the other hand, seeks them out: the little boy’s voice has been recorded inside his favourite teddy. Will can’t let it out of his sight: Gemma removes the batteries.
Because Gemma is the more physically affected of the two, much of the story is shown through her eyes, especially when she descends into panic. Her vision becomes seriously blurred, warped and disturbing: she can’t make out shapes, seeing fuzzy images, light and dark. The first one happens outside her house, where she’s helped by soon-to-be new friend Paul (Simon Cotton) and that’s frightening enough. But when the next one happens behind the wheel of her car, the combination of blurred vehicles and blaring car horns is an instant nightmare.
Paul, in the meantime, always seems to be in the right place at the right time, making friends with Will and generally hovering in the background. He’s almost instantly suspicious, especially his apparent knowledge of drugs. He says he used to be a pharmacist. True? Who knows? And sounds are important to him, as he records the local birds and wildlife in his palatial Lake District home. Not that he ever does it for the camera’s benefit. It raises more suspicions, as does the obvious fact that he’s taken a shine to Gemma.
Essentially a psychological thriller, The Unseen follows the trend for injecting a touch of horror into proceedings. There’s a couple of jump-out-of-your-seat moments and Gemma’s perspective on the action – especially when her vision is disturbed – is disorientating, warped and with a strong sense of fear. In fact, the visuals are generally impressive for what is clearly a low budget movie, with plush interiors turned into something more claustrophobic and unsettling. Added to its sense of style are some decent performances, especially from Jasmine Hyde, as the resourceful Gemma.
The resolution stretches the film’s credibility just a touch too far – made all the more obvious because, otherwise, everything makes sense and holds together well – so the final section of the story is weaker than it deserves. But don’t let that discourage you from watching what is a tight and intelligent British indie.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Freda Cooper. Follow me on Twitter.