Cheap scares don't add up to thrills in tepid 'Unspoken'
So far, Mike Flanagan's mediocre demon drama "Ouija: Origin of Evil" leads the weekend pack of mainstream Halloween movies, challenged only by the cheap (really cheap) jump scares in Sheldon Wilson's haunted house tale saddled with the blandly generic title "The Unspoken."
(What was wrong with the original title, "The Haunting of Briar House"?)
Jump scares can be very effective when impeccably timed. But in "Unspoken," they come at us all the time.
We get hands suddenly grabbing someone's shoulder. Doors magically slam shut at 110 decibels.
Girls turn around to be startled by a person ominously standing behind them,
A cat suddenly leaps into the frame for shock effect. Two times. (They barely rank higher than the worst cat-leap cliché ever shot in "Halloween 2.")
In "Unspoken," Angela (Jodelle Ferland, resembling Olivia Hussey in her prime) accepts a job as a nanny for a strange new kid named Adrian (Sunny Suljic). He and his mom just moved into the local haunted house, vacant for 17 years ever since the entire Anderson family disappeared.
Angela appears to possess lesbian leanings for her best friend Pandy (Chanelle Peloso). That subplot quickly dissipates when several local hoods (resembling the rednecks in "I Spit on Your Grave") force Pandy to retrieve illegal drugs they've hidden in the once-vacant haunted house.
"Unspoken" traffics in suspenseless setups and poltergeist shenanigans we've seen countless times before. Only at the end does it freshen up its by-the-numbers approach to stagnant horror.
The last shot shows a road sign indicating a town up ahead called "Amityville."
I'd explain this, but it should remain unspoken.
"The Unspoken"★ ½
Starring: Jodelle Ferland, Sunny Suljic, Pascale Hutton, Neal McDonough
Directed by: Sheldon Wilson
Other: A Great Point Media release. At the Randall 15 in Batavia. Not rated by the MPAA; contains adult language, violence. 90 minutes