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John’s Horror Corner: The Unseen (2017; aka Amaurosis), a British thriller about blindness, grief and unseen menace.

May 12, 2019

MY CALL: This film sews tropes of both horror and thriller at first, leaving us curious as to where we’re being led. Overall, I’d say this is not for horror fans, but for fans of crime or mystery-driven thrillers; perhaps viewers who generally dislike horror but desire a little more edge to their intrigue.

Disclaimer: Screener access was provided by the filmmaker. However, I was not paid or compensated to write this nor were there any conditions to my receiving viewing access other than my solicited review.

After the tragic accidental death of their son, Gemma (Jasmine Hyde; Good Omens) and Will (Richard Flood; Shameless, Crossing Lines) have lost their ability to function normally. They succumb to bereft bouts of rage, visions of intense guilt, and Gemma suffers unpredictable episodes of amaurosis—a sort of panic-induced blindness.

Using the audience-POV during amaurosis episodes is anxious at first, and develops into seat-clutching stress when its timing is most dangerous. But even more unnerving is Will’s rage and claims of hearing their son calling from his room… at which point we are tempted to wonder if either both grieving parents are experiencing their own very different and very extreme delusions, or if there is an external (supernatural) force at work.

The convenient kindness of a pharmacist (Simon Cotton; Among the Shadows)—who initially helped Gemma during a blindness episode—offers the opportunity for Gemma and Will to escape their lives to his lake house estate to ease their minds and their recovery. As the story unfolds we are led into unexpected territory.

Written and directed by Gary Sinyor (The Bachelor)—better known for his comedies—this British film walks a tightrope balancing thriller and horror-based tropes while never strongly delivering the expectations of either. While interesting, it’s difficult for me to recommend this to fans of horror. I fear such fans won’t find the “horror” they desire.

The performances, dialogue, direction and production value are all top notch—although the story develops into a stew that doesn’t fancy my taste… which would involve more murderous intent (e.g., The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Fatal Attraction, The Stepfather) or heavier twists. But still, the film is clearly well-made, sharply acted and the photography was simply excellent.

Unfortunately, despite being interesting (even if slow), it never truly embraces its own potential darkness. For such heavy content, the execution feels tame, the pacing is slow and the reveals are… well, sort of boring (especially as the blindness filter becomes overused). At least, boring for a horror fan. Instead I’d suggest this for fans of crime or mystery-driven thrillers; perhaps viewers who generally dislike horror but desire a little more edge to their intrigue.

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