Every once in a while, I come across a movie that feels "meh" during its entire duration, but once the credits roll and the film comes to a close, I immediately realize how good it was. Each smaller scene was alright - nothing to really write home about - until the pieces all came together and the story was complete. That was my experience with the new horror flick THE UNFAMILIAR this past weekend. The movie felt like it dragged a bit, but it looked stunning and the story had its twists, but as soon as I took a step back and thought about the movie was a whole, I realized the film fucking rules. And when I think about it now, that's actually totally okay; it's okay for these types of movies to not all be in-your-face craziness - sometimes the more subtle mindfuck films are the ones that really do leave a lasting impression, it just don't always hit until after the film is entirely over. Director Henk Pretorius - who co-wrote the movie with Jennifer Nicole Stang - has put together a crazy little rollercoaster of a movie that will take you to some pretty wicked highs and some terrifying lows, but overall makes for one hell of a movie. The Unfamiliar is visually stunning and will captivate you just on how well everything looks and is put together. And if you're into movies that never really hit that "terror" level, but has plenty of mind games to it, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with renting this one. Once the film ends and you do some brief research on the lore behind the Hawaiian mythology used in the film, you'll realize the full genius this movie entails.
The Unfamiliar has some pretty awesome storytelling, but I'll try to keep this brief to prevent giving away too much; Izzy Cormack (Jemima West) returns from a war and is reunited with her beautiful family, including her husband Ethan (Christopher Dane), her stepdaughter Emma (Rebecca Louise Hanssen), their son Tommy (Harry McMillan-Hunt), and this adorable little baby Lily (Beatrice Woolrych). She soon starts to experience some pretty unexplainable paranormal things around her and while her husband attributes it to PTSD, her instinct seems to tell her it's something else. As she begins to battle herself in her own head, small truths begin to come to light as Izzy realizes: it's not in her head, there's an unseen, malicious force at work haunting her every moment. But where did these "demons" come from? Will Izzy do battle with the evil at hand, or will she be trapped in this unfamiliar world? Find out in... THE UNFAMILIAR!
Like I mentioned, this film has some pretty heavy Hawaiian mythology themes in it, and I didn't realize the depth of its use until after finishing the movie and doing some research on the lore behind the film. The tie-in to real life mythology - not some made up paranormal activity for shock value - makes The Unfamiliar a little extra awesome and really helped bring out some creativity from its writers. Honestly, I never would have thought I'd be seeing a film like this with such in depth Hawaiian cultural references but it makes for an intense plot and a super creative storyline. What really brings a movie like this together is a great cast that feels authentic, and I think that's another nail the crew of this film hit right on the head. The family are all great but the two actors who really shine in this are West and McMillan-Hunt, the mother and son who just do an overall phenomenal job in the second half of the movie when things really start to hit the fan. Their relationship throughout the movie is interesting - strained at times - but it all comes together as the duo have to take control of the situation and save their family. It's then that these two really shine!
If you're into movies like The Conjuring and The Turning, throw in some Hawaiian mythology and I definitely think you'll enjoy The Unfamiliar. I'll be honest, I don't really see the movie making my "top of 2020" list, but it's far from a bad movie. You need to give it the time it needs to tell its story, reveal to you what it is hiding and let the movie do its job. The scenes one by one may not appear to be anything special, but the final, overall product - I think - will leave you more than satisfied with the hour and a half you put into it. Check it out!