Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Unwelcome (2022)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Unwelcome (2022)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 1h 44min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Tempo Productions Limited, Ingenious Media, Rococo Films, Warner Bros. Pictures, Well Go USA Entertainment, Shudder
Director: Jon Wright
Writers: Mark Stay, Jon Wright
Actors: Hannah John-Kamen, Colm Meaney, Douglas Booth, Jon Wright, Kristian Nairn, Niamh Cusack, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell, Finbar Lynch, Rick Warden, Lalor Roddy, Paul Blackwell, Caskey Brown, Mark Desvaux, Sarah Madigan, Ania Marson, Bradley Turner, Paul Warren, Richard Cave, Duncan Moyse
IMDb Blurb: Married couple Maya and Jamie escape their urban nightmare to the tranquility of rural Ireland only to discover malevolent and murderous goblins lurking in the gnarled, ancient wood at the foot of their new garden.
Cat’s Point of View:
I’ve been looking forward to watching Unwelcome ever since its limited theater run in March 2023 brought it up for contention for our Top 20 article for that month. It was, in fact, my #9 pick. 

Unwelcome had several things going for it including an infrequently explored creature from Celtic mythology, the gorgeous setting of Ireland, a recognizable cast, and an intriguing story exploring the titular theme from dual fronts. 

Let’s start with the familiar faces among the cast. Colm Meaney (Pixie, Save the Cinema, Marlowe) just excels at playing a villainous curmudgeon. He’s one of the best-known Irish actors and you can always count on him for a solid performance. Unwanted was no exception. His character just made me uncomfortable. Kristian Nairn (Mythica: The Godslayer, Robin Hood: The Rebellion, Our Flag Means Death) added his own creepy element to the story, and thankfully got more lines than playing poor Hodor in Game of Thrones (2011-2019). Well…whole sentences at least. 

Hannah John-Kamen (Ant-Man and the Wasp, Killjoys, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City) and Douglas Booth (The Limehouse Golem, Loving Vincent, The Dirt) worked well as an on-screen couple. I believed their chemistry and found it easy to empathize with their story. 

I was also generally impressed by how Unwelcome brought the redcaps to life on the screen. I was surprised to learn that the effects were primarily practical with the only CGI elements focused on motion-captured facial movements. I think they did a decent job bringing the little goblin-like critters to life. My only nitpicking note was that their well-known titular red caps weren’t always shown. 

The redcaps mythology originated in Scotland, lurking in castle ruins and preying on the wayward traveler. They’re not unheard of in Ireland, however, so their appearance in an Irish horror based on faerie folklore was still within the realm of belief, at least. 

Unwelcome could have benefited from a little tighter editing to streamline the story. There was at least one scene that could have been cut entirely or at least heavily modified. It felt like it was added to either toss in a political point or at the very least give John-Kamen’s character something controversial in her background. Other than that, the story was fine and generally delivered what was promised - with a little twist. 

The only other element that took away from my overall experience was the ending. On one hand, I get it. At least, I think I understand what the story was going for. I just felt like it didn’t quite gel with the rest so the ending feeling was a little disjointed. By that point, however, I’d already been on the pulse-pounding rollercoaster ride that led up to those final moments and I enjoyed everything else the narrative had to offer. 

If you enjoy horror based on folklore, Unwelcome is a decent offering in that category. There’s even a little levity worked in here and there, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s a horror-comedy. 

Unwelcome lands on Shudder starting Friday, June 23rd, 2023.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 64%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 41%
Metascore – 64%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.1/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

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