Written by: Chris Billett and Jason Todd Ipson
Directed by: Jason Todd Ipson
Reviewed by: Brett G.
In 2006, After Dark Films announced Horrorfest, an 8 film horror movie festival that would take place in select American cities in November of that year. Dubbed ďEight Films to Die For,Ē the festival essentially gave eight independent horror films a chance to shine in theaters. Essentially, these were selected by After Dark as the best of the best when it comes to independent horror. Naturally, I was skeptical of the flicks, as theyíre essentially direct-to-video material that just happened to play in theaters for a couple of days. However, I couldnít resist picking up the flicks when they went on sale for $5 apiece late last year, and Iím just now getting around to them.
My tour through the first wave of After Dark films coming near an end, I turn my attention towards Unrest, a film with a fairly interesting premise. We follow a group of med school students (Alison, Brian, Carlos, and Rick) whose cadaver is more than a little creepy. Sporting a multitude of slashes and other various wounds, the cadaver obviously met a violent death; furthermore, it soon becomes apparent that everyone who comes in contact with it is met with misfortune. Alison soon becomes to know this and ďsense thingsĒ (thatís actual dialogue from the movie, folks) and attempts to unravel the mystery of the cadaverís violent history. It is ultimately decided (out of pure speculation) that the body must be put at rest so that the violent spirit will be vanquished.
Like most of these After Dark films, Unrest offers absolutely nothing new to the genre. Itís an interesting premise, but itís one weíve seen beforeóin fact, we saw similar plot devices in The Gravedancers. However, whereas some of these films (Wicked Little Things and Dark Ride) didnít offer anything new, they were at least entertaining and well done, which is something Unrest canít claim. Itís not especially poorly directed, as Ipson seems to know what heís doing behind the camera. The script, however, is just a mess and is full of clichťd horror characters with some of the most inane dialogue Iíve heard in a while. I didnít particularly care for any of the characters in this film, and even the villain is uninteresting, if only because we never really see her in action and learn about her through some trite exposition). Itís also a shame that Derrick OíConnor is pretty much wasted in his role as the teacher overseeing the class.
The premise does have promise, but, as I said, the script just really sank this ship before it could get sailing. The film is all over the place, and there are more than a few moments where youíre just simply left scratching your head. For example, on top of the main storyline, thereís a possession sub-plot that just seems tacked on because it just muddles the proceedings. The undead spirit causing havoc due to an unburied body motif is nice and simple, but the addition of the possession angle unnecessarily complicates things because Iím not quite sure what the ending tries to accomplish. Oddly enough, the film itself must have felt the same way because the ending is laughably bad in its attempt at ambiguity, which only manages to invalidate the third act of the film.
The film does get one thing right if gross-out horror is up your alley. There are more than a few disgusting sequences involving dissections and cadavers (which the filmís trailer claims were real dead bodies to boot). While it doesnít quite garner a ďdisgustingĒ rating on the carnage counter, this movie confirmed that I would have never made it through med school. However, this doesnít save the film at all, as, if youíre looking for gore, there are plenty of other more entertaining films out there to satisfy you. As far as horror goes, thatís about all this has going for it because the atmosphere is nothing special, which is a shame because hospitals can make for excellent horror settings (see Halloween II). In terms of pacing, the film is subtle and low key as it plods along between the sparse death scenes strewn throughout the film. If anything, I thought this film handled its climax well, as it didnít degenerate into an over-the-top, action packed romp like The Gravedancers did. Itís just too bad the epilogue couldnít leave well enough alone.
Ultimately, unless youíre just absolutely starving for a film dealing with dead bodies, you wonít be missing anything by skipping this one. If you do decide to seek it out, the DVD is alright. The transfer does exhibit some ringing and halo effects, but only the tech-heads like myself will notice it. The soundtrack is nice and aggressive at times, but itís a fairly muted film for the most part. However, I must warn you that this is one of the weaker entries in the After Dark series so far, and itís only worth a rental if you really feel like you need to see all eight films. If youíre not bound by that obligation, however, youíll be fine to skip this altogether. Trust me, the use of real cadavers isnít worth it. Trash it!
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