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Diablo Joe Reviews The Unheard

Posted in Diablo Joe Reviews by Neal at 06:01, Apr 03 2023

"The Unheard"
review by Diablo Joe

"The Unheard"

When a young woman undergoes an experimental treatment to restore her hearing, she retires to recuperate in the Cape Cod home where her mother disappeared 15 years before. As her hearing begins to return, she starts to experience hearing strange sounds, possibly from her missing parent. As she questions these eerie potential echoes from the past, she must also contend with the possibility that her mother’s abductor is still out there and is focusing on her as his next victim.

This is the basic premise of “The Unheard,” a Shudder Original film by director Jeffrey A. Brown as a follow-up to his well-received 2019 debut “The Beach House,” and written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, writers of “Crawl” and John Carpenter’s “The Ward.” An intriguing premise it is, rife with possibilities. Brown’s film makes terrific use of music and sound design in its first half to convey Chloe’s world, at first a muffled, indistinct blur of garbled mid-frequency rumble and, then, an intrusive, piercing, and otherworldly chatter. It’s in this cacophony that Chloe senses some distant communication from her missing mother. Is her mother still alive? Is she reaching out from the dead, or perhaps the past?

“The Unheard” never quite clarifies this, and it is just one of the many unexplored plot tendrils of the Rasmussens’ script. The film's first half is a slow-burn character piece where we follow Chloe as she adapts to her return to the world of sound and then struggles to cope as it takes her into unexpected and disturbing territory.

Lachlan Watson is superb as Chloe. Watson is an actor many have seen before but may not recognize here. Playing Theo Putnam in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” and the dual roles of Glen and Glenda in the “Chucky” television series, Chloe is a very different role that showcases Watson’s versatility and skill. They are onscreen solo for much of the film, carrying the movie's emotional weight with ease. It’s a subtle and mature performance, and they make it seem effortless.

Once the story takes Chloe into darker and more dangerous territory, the script begins to falter under the weight of too many ideas, situations, and details that conflict or seem outright absurd. The film takes place during Cape Cod's off-season when the tourists and even many locals desert the area. But the movie makes it seem as if Chloe is in a virtual ghost town, and the sheer lack of people other than our principal characters makes the picture’s mystery killer not too much of a mystery. Furthermore, even during its busiest season, this is not New York City or some other dense metropolis, and the number of local girls the film suggests have gone missing should have attracted more attention than it seems to. There are too many unexplored subplots, such as Chloe’s relationship with her doctor and the investigation by a neighbor boy into the strange energy that could be the secret to Chloe’s sensory experiences. While that latter plotline suggests even more material may have been trimmed from “The Unheard’s” final edit, it also takes away much of what made Chloe’s character unique.

The idea that others have experienced these unusual signals or messages negates much of what made the film’s premise special in the first place. While we can place that blame squarely upon the picture’s script, director Brown doesn’t help matters by subjecting Chloe to blasts of staticky video imagery that, like so much else, is never fully explained.

If there is a definitive reason to watch “The Unheard,” it's Lachlan Watson. They make the picture bearable even when it’s at its most frustrating. But sadly, such a good-looking (and sounding) film, filled as it is with atmosphere and potential for tension, becomes too overburdened with ideas for its own good.

This devil of a reviewer gives “The Unheard” 2.5 out of 5 imps

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