Director/Screenplay – Geoff Redknap, Producer – Katie Weekley, Photography – Stephen Maier, Music – Harlow MacFarlane, Visual Effects – Encore Vancouver (Supervisor – Bob Habros), Makeup Effects – Tony Lindala, Animatronics – Amazing Ape Productions, Production Design – Caitlin Byrnes. Production Company – Goonworks Films
Aden Young (Bob Longmore), Julia Sarah Stone (Eva), Camille Sullivan (Darlene), Ben Cotton (Crisby), Alison Araya (Moll), Max Chadburn (Amelia), Eugene Lipinski (Milton), Lillian Lim (Mo Wing), Max Haynes (Benjy), Linda Darlow (Dr Amherst), Kurt Ostlund (Oggy)
Bob Longmore is a former star ice hockey player who has left his wife and daughter and is working at a mill in Kelowna. He keeps to himself and apart from his co-workers. What he is not telling anybody else is that he has a condition that is progressively causing parts of his body to fade away and become invisible. He now quits his job and sets out, intending to visit his wife and daughter in Vancouver for the first time in eight years. He crashes in his pick-up but local drug dealer Crisby agrees to repair it in return for Bob making a delivery. In the city, Bob reunites with his now teenage daughter Eva but she then disappears after her and her friends break into the abandoned Meadowview Asylum as part of a dare. In setting out to find her, Bob has to reveal his secret but also brings the wrath of Crisby and the attentions of the scientists who imprisoned his father.
The Unseen – not to be confused with the earlier horror film The Unseen (1981) – is a directorial debut for Canadian makeup effects artist Geoff Redknap who has a long history working on films and tv series including the likes of The X Files (1993-2002, 2016– ), Final Destination (2000), Fantastic Four (2005), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), Fringe (2008-13), Watchmen (2009) and Deadpool (2016), among others.
I liked The Unseen as it started in. It is not a film without some problems but it is a reasonable variant on the horror of bodily transformation a la The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and The Fly (1986). Aden Young gives a closed and guarded performance – he seems like an actor who should be doing more macho and outgoing roles by nature but instead keeps hidden with the hood of his jacket covering his face and hands bandaged. Gradually, we come to see why – that Aden is slowly becoming invisible – his hand has melted away and all that is left is a few pieces of raw, exposed flesh; after the accident, he opens his shirt to reveal a huge gap in his side with exposed bones; and especially when he takes off his hoodie to reveal that the entire top of his head has disappeared. One of the most effective images in the film comes near the end where daughter Julia Sarah Stone is lying on his chest on the couch and his exposed face is like a half-finished jigsaw of missing pieces. Geoff Redknap keeps the transformations to a minimum and by so doing builds some shock effect out of each glimpse he gives us.
In actuality, what we have is no more than a standard Invisible Man film – indeed, the whole show feels like a horror film that could have been built out of the scene at the start of The Invisible Man (1933) where Claude Rains sits in his hotel room and peels off his bandages to reveal that there is nothing there. The makeup effects carry the film. Outside of the effects, which are very good, The Unseen is uneven. It feels as though it could easily have been trimmed of some twenty minutes of plot. Once we get to the city, the film diverts away from Aden Young and his problem to focus on daughter Julia Sarah Stone who disappears after she and her friends break into an abandoned asylum and several subplots about dealings with drug dealers, Chinese traditional medicine, even a plot that goes nowhere in which Aden Young is briefly imprisoned at the asylum. It feels here that the film loses its principal focus – these are clearly subplots that were added with the intention of giving the story drive, only to let them take over. They get far too much screen time when what interests us is not the mundane happenings on the periphery but rather the perfectly reasonable story of physical decay at the centre of the film.