By Jim Slotek
For the longest time, the genre-festival favourite The Unseen comes off like an archetypal Canadian movie. Everybody is depressed. There’s an estranged dad/ex-hockey player who drinks and a neglected, resentful teen daughter who acts out.
If the payoff were suicide or incest, the cheque from Telefilm would be in the mail.
Instead, frequent glances in the mirror suggest a fantastical reason for all the ennui. Large chunks of Bob (Aden Young) are disappearing - a congenital condition that affected his dad and, we discover, his daughter Eva (Julia Sarah Stone).
You want to know more from this Invisible Mannish tale NOW, but The Unseen – by Vancouver FX veteran Geoff Redknap – has a lot of boxes it wants to tick off before it gets to its juicy last act.
We’ve got to hear repeatedly about Bob’s preemptive hockey career from a bunch of hosers who think it’s hilarious that he flopped. We have to hear him get the gears because his wife (Camille Sullivan) has left him for another woman (Alison Araya). We have to feel his boredom doing millwork in the Northern B.C. town to which he’s fled so no one can see through him (literally). Through much of the film, Bob is bundled up in hoodies, parkas, toques, scarves, etc. He’s not just hiding from the world geographically, but existentially in layers of clothing.
It feels as if Redknap, whose makeup effects work played strongly in both Deadpool movies and Star Trek Beyond, wanted to prove something by not playing to his strength. As a result, the meat of the story (involving mad scientists, implied vivisection, Chinese medicine, and a secret behind the walls of a mental hospital), feels rushed after all that narrative malingering.
Let it be said that the meat is mostly worth the wait. Bob on the hunt for his missing daughter suddenly amps up the previously listless movie, and gives Young the opportunity to go properly badass. And the movie finally addresses the sort-of-metaphor at the center of its plot. Does the person afflicted with this condition eventually turn invisible, or disappear entirely as if he/she never even existed?
I’ve seen movies by FX guys turned director that are nothing but wall-to-wall CG (and by career stunt guys that are nothing but endless stunts).
Redknap, going the other way, is just as questionable a decision. The “disappearing” effects are dished out sparingly until the end, which is too bad. They’re impressive, and there’s nothing wrong with showing us the moves that made you famous in the first place. If nothing else, The Unseen, which finishes strongly, could have used a strong opening too.
The Unseen. Written and directed by Geoff Redknap. Starring Aden Young, Julia Sarah Stone, Camille Sullivan. Opens Friday, June 29 at the Carlton Cinema.