The Unseen is less about an invisible curse, and more about a family-man whose broken heart beats for the wife and daughter he left behind. You’ll sample grotesque glimpses into man’s usually-covered inner workings, but writer/director Geoff Redknap’s feature debut isn’t about horrors or scares. Instead, the veteran makeup artist/special effects guru parlays his prosthetic talents into an unnerving quest for one unlucky father, ripe with emotion and angst. You’ll get your Frankenstein-like reveals that make you gasp in astonishment, along with actual story constructs deeper than a few Hollow Man homages. This is genre work that offers something a little more than cheap thrills.
Aden Young stars as Bob Langmore, a former NHL prospect who fled from his family to become a mill worker. It sounds harsh, until we learn something special about Bob – he’s slowly turning invisible. There’s no explanation, but day by day, bits of his body vanish to reveal bones and organs (or nothing at all). Bob never wanted his family to witness the transformation, but that’s until his daughter Eva (Julia Sarah Stone) goes missing, and we learn that Bob might not be the only one suffering from sporadic invisibility. After strapping-up his ass-kicking boots, Bob sets out to find the daughter he once lost, even if it means exposing his own unique secret.
The Unseen features some noteworthy visual tricks (Redknap’s behind-the-scenes credits span some 60 films including Deadpool, Warcraft and The Cabin In The Woods), immediately intriguing viewers when Bob unwinds the wrapped gauze that’d been hiding invisible splotches on his hand. As the film progresses, more articles of clothing are revealed, along with bigger areas of see-through body parts – all of which impress equally. The premise of an invisible man is never shied away from, as Redknap embraces artistic hellishness by way of green screens and prosthetic wizardry. Aside from some super-ambitious late-movie scenes (where Bob comes across almost fully transparent), Redknap’s confident approach to physical effects work delivers as promised.
That said, a bit of the logic is a tad fuzzy, as plot structures choose to move forward with little backstory. We’re forced to accept that the Langmore name is cursed with invisibility, starting with Bob’s father and continuing on to Bob’s daughter (that we know of). Invisibility is an inevitability, but remember, this is a movie about Bob struggling to locate Eva – we’re not here to learn about the baffling medical condition playing out in front of our eyes. Yet, even then, there are questions around Bob’s father’s decision to remain where he is, Asian healing methods and Eva’s abduction that are a tad hazy and less thoughtful (really, how can Bob’s wife stitch him?). “Invisible father fights for distant daughter” sounds great on paper, but – as expected – there are a few hiccups to such aggressive genre plotting.
The bond between Bob and Eva is what saves audiences from jumping ship, since there’s certainly more to Redknap’s film than exposed ribcages and disappearing men. Emotions run high on all sides, and while Bob encounters a few challenges that distract in their trailer-trash overstereotyping, most of his exchanges ache with parental concern. Bob’s ex-wife, the now-lesbian Darlene (Camille Sullivan), kickstarts a fire in her estranged ex-husband that actor Aden Young uses to fuel his character’s passionate rescue. Redknap takes a man who was ready to disappear (literally), and makes a redemptive hero out of his deceivingly-exposed interior. We might be able to see right through Bob, but it’s not until his fatherly rage explodes that Young shapes a man out of nothing – with young Julia Sarah Stone’s help, that is.
Whether you’re a son or daughter, mother or father, The Unseen stings with the isolation that Bob chooses to face. Love and compassion run through his body, but he must numb these human feelings for (what he thinks is) the betterment of those he cares most for. Of course, Redknap identifies this “easy route” for the bullshit it is, and allows a story about letting people make their own decisions ring loudest – hearty truths exposed by genre weirdness. It’s funny how a journey so ludicrous can be loaded with such weighty metaphorical representation, moreso than your average “Dad skips town” dramatic hogwash…
The Unseen turns a freakshow scenario into jarring parental heartbreak as only genre cinema could permit.