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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

The Unborn  (1991)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: August 14, 2018) – How is it that more people don't talk about Rodman Flender's 1991 slice-of-life-turned-wackadoo-horror-film "The Unborn?" It opens with a surreal scene featuring the film debuts of both Lisa Kudrow (as a fertility clinic receptionist) and Kathy Griffin (as one-half of a lesbian couple who teach a New Age-y birthing class), follows it up with deliciously observant snapshots of early-'90s yuppie domesticity, leads into creaky wicker chair sex, and just gets more outlandish from there. The invaluable Brooke Adams (1978's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and 1983's "The Dead Zone") somehow anchors the satirically grisly zaniness in emotional truth as children's author Virginia Marshall, whose in vitro pregnancy takes a horrific turn for the worse.

"The Unborn" isn't exactly a great film—the plot gets dopier in the second half as Adams' character is pulled along by leaps in logic and strained script machinations—and yet there is an admirable go-for-broke quality to its genetic code. Lensing his first feature, future A-list cinematographer Wally Pfister (a Christopher Nolan semi-regular, who would go on to shoot 2006's "The Prestige," 2008's "The Dark Knight," 2010's "Inception," and 2012's "The Dark Knight Rises") gives the picture a moody sense of paranoia, all the better to accompany Virginia as she uncovers a nefarious plot involving the baby growing inside her. "The Unborn" may not be for everyone, but it will be something of a revelation for the right B-movie-loving audience.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"The Unborn" is workmanlike but gets the job done on Blu-ray, the 1080p transfer injecting the image with a pleasing high-definition upgrade. The film hasn't received an extensive restoration—it appears to be using an existing master—but clarity is improved while grain is even and intact. There is a certain hazy softness to the image at times, but this is how it was shot and a result of 1991-era film stock. Age-related damage is minor; there is speckling here and there, but nothing egregious. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, likewise, is solid, but as a 27-year-old low-budget film one would be unrealistic to expect demo material. Dialogue is always intelligible, the music score is incorporated well into the mix, and aural activity, from screams to gunshots to breaking glass, proves effective.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with Producer-Director Rodman Flender and Filmmaker Adam Simon
  • Trailer (1:42, HD)
Bottom Line
Scream Factory gives birth to 1991's "The Unborn" on Blu-ray, and it's a quirky, welcome addition to their catalogue (and hey, it's certainly far superior to 2009's same-named-but-otherwise-unrelated "The Unborn"). Come for Kathy Griffin fighting for her life in a living-room brawl and Lisa Kudrow doing her best Phoebe Buffay impression three years prior to the start of "Friends," stay for an icky, involving, well-observed thriller that goes on a number of entertainingly wacky tangents. A new audio commentary with talented producer-director Rodman Flender adds to the value of this release. Recommended.

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© 2018 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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