The last decade has seen all the great hammer horror movie monsters make a return to cinema. Dracula was Untold, the Wolf Man had a go at frightening Emily Blunt and Frankenstein has had a few spins around the block. Now in The Unseen it’s the turn of another classic, The Invisible Man.
Bob lives a solitary life, By day he is one of hundreds of faceless employees at the local mill. By night he drinks his life away; lonely doesn’t begin to cover Bob’s circumstances. Things weren’t always this way though. Once upon a time he was a happy family man, living out the picture perfect, cookie-cutter life. Then he became stricken with a strange disorder that saw him start to disappear, piece by piece. Unlike the usual vanishing limbs Bob is actually slowly vanishing layer by layer, muscle fibre by muscle fibre. This makes him a rather unpleasant sight to behold (in places anyway) and in order to give his daughter Eva and wife Darlene a shot at a normal life he left home. Now several years later his daughter is a teenage tearaway and his wife at the end of her tether. After a desperate phone call from his estranged wife Bob decides to return home to make peace and reconnect with his Eva. However Eva has been hiding a secret of her own and Bob might not be the only family member with the degenerative disorder.
The Unseen isn’t quite the Invisible Man film that you would expect. In fact it’s not really a monster movie at all, and is much more of a family drama. It clearly references the invisible man as the film is essentially about a man becoming invisible yet it forges it’s own path. It’s a story that feels really grounded, despite it’s fantastical premise. At its core this is a story about mending a broken relationship between father and daughter. The disorder, whilst a prominent feature, takes the backseat to family dynamic.
Made for a reasonably modest budget, director Geoff Redknap has clearly pumped his money into the ‘invisible’ effects. Bob’s ailment isn’t like the olden days of invisible people, one minute they’re there, the next, poof they’ve gone. Bob is slowly and painfully vanishing piece by piece, in no particular order. For the most part, in order to disguise his illness from those around, he’s heavily clad in clothing. But he doesn’t always stay hidden and audiences will see what it looks like to start losing chunks of flesh, rather than everything in one go.
The performances of both Aden Young (Bob) and Julia Sarah Stone (Eva) are strong and engaging. Young has the audience on side within minutes of meeting him and you genuinely feel his pain as more parts start to vanish. Stone too manages to garner a lot of sympathy and thankfully she skirts the teenage brat trope well. Yes Eva is a handful, but the audience always understands why she’s doing what she does.
There’s a drug-dealer subplot that, whilst giving Bob a means to get home, on the whole weighs down the film in places. It is the various groups of ‘scientists’ that would like to study Bob and his condition that get too little screen time.
With elements of science-fiction, drama, thriller and horror, The Unseen is a melting-pot of genres that mix together to create a compelling high concept story with a strong emotional core. A fantastical story grounded in reality The Unseen will get the grey matter working and the heart strings tugging.
The Unseen screens as part of this 2016’s Fantasia International Film Festival programme.
Find all our of Fantasia 2016 coverage here.