Posts Tagged ‘Unwanted’

Here’s one I’m predisposed to like right off the bat : writer/director Paul Foster’s 2017 indie horror Unwanted, a well and truly “homemade” effort shot in Pittsbug (no “h”), Texas, earlier this very year for a whopping $8,900. My love for “micro-budget” filmmaking is well known around these parts, of course, but East Texas has held a special fascination for me for the past couple of decades ever since reading cartoonist Michael Dougan’s outstanding books I Can’t Tell You Anything and East Texas : Tales From Behind The Pine Curtain, both of which made this uniquely off-beat part of the country seem something of a world all its own. Surely, then, this one must have at least  something to recommend in its favor almost by default, right?

Still — there’s no point getting ahead of ourselves, is there? I mean, plenty of films with more going for them “on paper” have failed to live up to expectations, and given that the cast of this one was made up entirely of inexperienced actors, and that Foster himself had never made a movie before, well — there’s really no reason to bank on anything special going on here, am I right? So let’s just say I went into this hoping for the best, but not especially expecting anything.

Given all that, then, the fact that Unwanted is a decidedly mixed bag should not only come as no surprise, but might even be considered something of a “win” for Foster, his cast, and his crew. The premise is about as basic as it gets — young couple Ryan (played by Ryan Miller) and Shannon (Christa Watson), who are searching for their dream house, stumble upon one that’s available for a song and has been on the market for a looonnng time. Too good to be true, right? Well, when a deal this good lands in your lap you generally don’t question it, and so our lovebirds scrape together everything they’ve got and take the plunge.

Big mistake — of course.

Look, Foster does what he can with what he’s got, and it’s not his fault that “what he’s got” isn’t very much. I guess he hustled up what little financing he could by means of Indiegogo, and it’s a good bet that most of it went to securing rights to shoot in the Holman House, a local historical landmark. Certainly not much was spent on the cast, as both leads clearly have a lot of learning about their craft yet to do (in fact, some of the supporting players, particularly Deborah Johnston who plays a character called Carolyn, seem to have a bit more in terms of natural acting ability), but I give them credit for coming up trumps during the film’s more tense scenes — when said “tense scenes” actually happen, mind you.

Which brings us to the biggest “knock” that Unwanted has going against it, namely : this isn’t a “slow burn,” its pacing is downright glacial. When you’ve got no money for effects and are basically entirely dependent on things going bump in the night, you’d damn well better have some tricks up your sleeve to keep audiences interested, and Foster can’t compensate for his financially-dictated “minuses” with any particular “pluses.” Sure, he stumbles his way into some genuinely effective shots and generally speaking his camerawork is never what you’d call incompetent by any stretch, but when you’re doing a “creaky old haunted house” flick, you’d best make certain that every creak comes across loud and clear, and this film’s sound quality is so uneven and haphazard that it really undercuts everything our nine-thousand-dollar auteur is trying to achieve. His heart’s in the right place, to be sure, and I’ll give him an “A” for effort, but in terms of execution, shit — I hate to say it, but he’s firmly in, oh, I dunno, let’s call it “C-minus” territory.

Still, far be it from me to say that his film was a complete waste of everyone’s time to make — although it may be a waste of your time to watch. Foster at least seems to have a grasp on what he wants to do, and given the resources to do it, he may just come up with something reasonably good. Ditto for the most of the actors, who could rise to the level of “passable” with some more lessons under their belts. This isn’t an especially good flick by any stretch, but it doesn’t scream “seriously, people, don’t quit your day jobs,” either — which is just as well, I suppose, because I can’t imagine that any of them actually have.

I’ve certainly seen people with less do more than Foster is able to achieve with Unwanted, it’s true, but what the hell — I’ve seen people with more do a lot less, too. No one involved with this production should feel either ashamed or embarrassed, but the flick is nothing to necessarily be proud of, either. It just kinda — is. And what it “is” happens to be slow, plodding, and generally uninspired — but not without its moments. I just wish there were a lot more of ’em, and that they started in a lot sooner.