Film Review: Unwelcome

Mild spoilers ahead.

When I saw the trailer for Unwelcome, it grabbed my attention immediately. A small budget Irish horror fantasy that uses practical creature effects, it sounded right up my street! So when I found out Cineworld were doing an early Unlimited screening of this one, I was excited, surely this wouldn’t disappoint?

Fear not readers, because I saw this film so that you don’t have to, Unwelcome was dire, and I’m gutted that I’m saying that.

Unwelcome follows a married couple about to have their first child, who inherit a house in rural Ireland and decide to settle there, all seems fine until they become embroiled in the folklore about the mysterious “Red Caps” that live in the woods behind them.

That’s the premise that is set up early in the film, and that’s how the trailers marketed the film. A fantasy horror where a family are troubled by a troupe of murderous goblins, it looked pretty chilling in the trailers and it undoubtedly had potential, but this was one of the most misleading “horrors” I’ve ever seen, it’s not scary whatsoever. Unwelcome is a mess that has no idea what it is trying to be and constantly fails to utilise the things that make it captivating, instead, it chooses to take the plot in a different direction and focus on characters that aren’t in the slightest bit interesting. It became apparent about halfway through the film that we as an audience had been sold a lie…

This film was trying harder to be a comedy than it was a horror film, which could have been forgivable if the humour was any good, but it’s not. The jokes were forced, the delivery was often poor and most of the time any attempt at comedy just ended up falling flat. Hannah John-Kamen (who plays the main character Maya) and Colm Meaney (Whelan) are the only two performers that can come out of this film with any real credit, they do their best with the poor material on offer and succeed more often than not to make it somewhat passable. The rest of the cast, however, are just not very good at all. A couple of characters in particular I found to be very annoying, and I’m pretty confident that was not supposed to be the intended response.

The only good source of comedy are the Red Caps, the creature effects are great and reminded me of something from an 80s classic like Gremlins. I digged the look of them and they were rather entertaining when they were on screen. But from this comes two massive problems:

  1. The Red Caps were supposed to be (as the trailers suggested) the main source of the audiences horror fix, yet they are more or less used for comic relief, the plot decides to find its antagonism from a different source which, in my view, was a huge mistake.
  2. The Red Caps are barely in this film, that might be a bit of a spoiler, but I’d rather you go in to this film knowing the truth. They take an age to show up and when they finally do they get a tiny amount of screen time.

So, we’ve got a film with boring characters that are mostly poorly performed, that is billed as a fantasy horror but is so far away from this genre that the producers should be sued for false advertising, that promotes the use of practical creature effects and then utilises them for a few minutes maximum, meaning we’re left with a wafer-thin plot that has to be padded out for 1 hour and 40 minutes. (it feels longer than that, which is a testament to how dull it is) Basically, a recipe for disaster.

I left the cinema incredibly disappointed, because I do believe there was so much potential with this film. I can’t fathom why certain decisions were made, had the tone been true to what the trailer was conveying, it probably would have been better. But I can’t in good conscience recommend this film to anyone, it’s a complete waste of time. If, like myself, you’re a fan of practical creature effects and you want to see them in action, then wait until the film clips end up on YouTube in a few months, because they’re the only bits worth watching.

After looking at the response on social media, it would seem I am not alone in my opinion.

It’s a real shame, but I will suggest that you avoid this.

I give Unwelcome a 3/10.


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