Review by Dan Skip Allen
The horror genre has done many things to get audiences scared. One of those is using people with disabilities to tell spooky and or horrific tales. The Unheard is one such film. It's a Shudder Original, and they can be a mixed bag, but The Unheard is a genuinely frightening film. Once it gets going, the scares are very prevalent and frequent.
Chloe Grayden (Lachian Watson) is a young girl who lost her hearing when she was 8 years old, from an accident as a child. While in a coma, she also lost her mother. She returns to her childhood home of Provincetown, Rhode Island to get an experimental treatment that will return her auditory response and hearing. What she didn't expect from the clinical study was that she would start to have hallucinations of her dead mother.
Along with her hearing returning, she starts to have other issues. She sees lights across the way from her house, and her television set starts to come on on its own, and plays scratchy and glitches out frequently. She doesn't know what she can believe as her hearing comes and goes. This may be the effect of the treatment she receives from her doctor, or she could actually be hearing things. It's a classic horror trope.
This movie has a few things going for it, besides the main character's hearing issues. The supporting cast is a bit creepy, to say the least. Nick Sandow plays a handyman, and he has some secrets that he keeps from the main character, even though her father trusts him to keep an eye on her. Brendan Meyer plays the neighbor across the way. He's no stranger to horror films. His percent for taxidermy and weird things isn't normal, but he may be the lead character's only friend since she feels like a stranger in her own home and town.
The film uses a few things like flashbacks, text messages and pictures to get the backstory of the main character across to viewers. Jeffery A. Brown, the director, takes the script by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen and runs with it. With help from his lead actor Watson, he is able to create a real scary film. One of the scariest movies I've seen all year. The imagery of dead birds and the television screen glitching out a la Poltergeist was brilliantly executed. It's not always good to exploit a disability like deafness or blindness in the case of Don't Breathe and its sequel, but it worked in this case.
The Unheard takes popular horror tropes and puts a spin on them in an interesting and fascinating way. The length of the film hinders it a bit, but it doesn't take away from the real scares it brings. Using an X-Files-like score to bring all of this together in the end makes this a frightening movie when all is said and done. As a Shudder Original, this works in multiple ways. The lead actor's disability is used to perfection to scare and frighten the bejesus out of those who watch it. This is genuinely one of the scariest things I've seen in a while.
The Unheard streams on Shudder beginning March 31.