Director – Bill Corcoran, Screenplay – Matt Dorff, Producer – Kirk Shaw, Photography – Michael Balfry, Music – Misha Segal, Visual Effects Supervisor – Richard Mintak, Special Effects Supervisor – Brant McIlroy, Production Design – Hitoshi Okamoto. Production Company – Insight Film Studios Ltd.
Cara Buono (Dr Julie Bishop), Chris William Martin (Tom Blake), Julie Anderson (Christina), Mylene Dinh-Robic (Gail), Michael Teigen (Phillip), Don S. Davis (Bud Rollins), Tegan Moss (Tess), Zahf Paroo (Hoyt), Marion Eisman (Madame Arca)
Julie Bishop heads the Dell Institute that specialises in refuting claims of the paranormal. They are hired by real estate developer Bud Rollins who has purchased the old abandoned Blackstone women’s prison and wants to debunk its reputation as being haunted before redeveloping it. Julie and her team head there only to discover that another team is also in the building – a film crew making a documentary about the hauntings, which is led by none other than Julie’s estranged husband Tom Blake. The two soon heatedly conflict but agree to a truce whereby either team works on separate floors. As they begin their investigation, they experience possibly supernatural forces but this soon sparks accusations by Julie of Tom trying to sabotage their efforts.
The Unquiet was a Ghost Story that originally appeared on the US Lifetime Channel, a medium that was set up to deliver content for women and usually consists of glossy soap operas and true-life inspirational dramas.
The Unquiet came along about two years too early. If it had come out in January of 2010 instead of January of 2008, it would have been a very different film. There it would almost certainly have taken influence from Paranormal Activity (2007) and the huge number of Found Footage films that subsequently followed – indeed, one of these, the very similar Grave Encounters (2011), even used the same location of the former Riverview mental hospital in British Columbia that this does. The Unquiet with its two competing paranormal investigation teams, one of which is a documentary crew, searching a reputedly haunted facility is something that almost cries out for a Found Footage treatment.
The film comes with a premise that seems like it has potential – two paranormal investigation teams with opposing approaches – one highly sceptical, the other taking a tabloid approach – clash in their investigation into a supposedly haunted facility. To add to the drama, and no doubt a good part of the pitch to the Lifetime audience, either team also happens to be led by an estranged husband and wife who are constantly clashing but throughout the course of events reignite their attraction to one another. This holds a certain potential.
That said, the film’s Lifetime destination almost kills any promise The Unquiet has as a ghost story. The scenes between Cara Buono and Chris William Martin are shot exactly like the banal melodramas that take place in a soap opera rather than a ghost story. This would not be so bad if it were not for director Bill Corcoran’s utter failure to ignite the film as the ghost story it sets out to be. There is a scene early on where Julie Anderson, followed by most of the women in the group, overheat and have hysterics while standing out in the open. The effect is meant to be of a supernatural manifestation but the scene comes so completely lacking in atmosphere that the actual result is more one of laughter.
The rest of the show is little improvement. None of the manifestations come with any atmosphere or do anything to spook you. Towards the end of the film, Bill Corcoran churns through a host of pop-up effects with nothing but the most rudimentary feel for anything he is doing. He is a director who seems to have been working as a hired gun for so long – see below – that the ability to infuse the material with anything it needs now seems an alien concept to him.
Bill Corcoran has a long history directing television going way back to the 1980s where he delivered episodes of shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985-9), Friday the 13th (1987-90), Wiseguy (1987-90) and 21 Jump Street (1987-91). Corcoran has made numerous tv movies and/or films that have received video/dvd release including Portraits of a Killer (1996), Atomic Twister (2002), Left Behind II: Tribulation Force (2002), A Job to Kill For (2006), Vipers (2008), Death Warrior (2009) and Rise of the Gargoyles (2009).