19th October 2018 | 31 Days of “Alternative” Horror: The Unseen
When a movie spends any length of time showing you a factory, focusing on the motion of machinery, the people, mainly men here working with that machinery, you get the feeling somebody is going to be diced by an industrial mechanism. But it doesn’t happen here. Already your expectations are subverted. This sets up the feeling for the rest of the movie. This is The Unseen.
Aden Young is Bob Longmore, a former Canadian hockey pro turned blue collar recluse with a very unique problem: His body is disappearing, little by little, inside and out, and in an agonizingly slow way. There are both practical and CGI working hand in stump of a hand, excuse the pun. Direct light can shine all the way through holes — gaps in his body. Because of this so he remains wrapped up and out of the public eye.
The film harks back not only to the Company of Wolves era of practical makeup magic, but it reminds us of elements of similar characters who share one thing one common: body shock. Bob could easily have been Logan in the X Men movies, but also tells a very lonely version of Jeff Goldblum’s character in The Fly. In dreams, he could easily be the paranormal enthusiast in Poltergeist who rips his own face off after eating chicken infested with maggots, but no. Bob is in the real world, and losing flesh and bone while trying to figure out what is really important in this world. He is trying his hardest to stay in the picture and be somewhat vital.
The absence of his body parts reminded me very much of those tattoos that show the exposed muscle, bone or organs beneath a zipped opening, bringing what’s deep within, right up to the surface as a visual spectacle that we have to reckon with — well, the good ones at least. Bob’s health deteriorates as the film goes on. His attitude fits in with all the typical signs: A loner, a smoker, a drinker, and a “no time for this” quitter. On the flip side, he knows time for him is short, and now more than ever, he wants to be around the people he knows and trusts. The very idea of an antihero who is lightening the load and avoiding the world the further he goes into losing himself is not like anything we’ve seen before. We are very much on his side, and it seems his family may have a personal understanding as to what he’s going through.
Movies that handled the “invisible” quandary in the past rarely paid attention to the pain such a process involves: Memoirs of an Invisible Man played out the idea of vanishing as if it were purely an optical event. The movie Hollowman dealt with the short-term agony during the hasty Hollywood transformation, but in comparison to The Unseen, it was a whip of a Band-Aid — brought on by a drug during a medical procedure. Usually, the invisible man also has a nasty or at the very least, a voyeuristic personality trait. They can get away with things now that they cannot be seen. Our guy Bob has no “sin bin fantasy” upholding the Canadian squeaky-clean reputation.
You don’t expect that this dirtiness and agony can find a happy ending, but this movie not only delivers, it makes the ending sweet enough to leave you with a smile. The horror of Bob’s unseen condition was never really there for its shock value, and instead was clinically observed. That by no means makes it less horrific. The process may be painful, yet compelling, and the end game of vanishing without a trace, has its advantages.
Written by: Stephen Radford
Next: 20th October: In Fear