The Unseen (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2016]

UNSEENIn a small Northern Canadian town, a man who left his family behind to protect them receives a call that his daughter needs him.  Risking everything and possibly exposing the fact that he is becoming invisible, Bob Langmore takes a job for the local drug dealer to be able to see his daughter and help as best he can.

The Unseen is writer/director Geoff Redknap’s first feature as such, having made himself an enviable career in special effects on projects like The Cabin in the Woods, Supernatural, and Deadpool.  His background in effects shows in how Bob’s progressive invisibility is brought up and showcased.  Rednap not only does this really well, but he also creates believable characters and situations within an “invisible man” scenario.  The broken family dynamic feels real and human while their reactions and interactions blending naturally with the situations that are anything but natural.  The story does take its time getting started, making the first act seem long but once it does get going, the pace changes and the story makes the wait worth it.

The lead actor chosen for the part of Bob Langmore is very important and so Aden Young was carefully chosen and does great with the conflicted character who want to stay hidden while making sure his daughter is safe.  Viewers can see his struggle between self-protection and his need to protect his child.  Young’s performance shows this inner conflict and worry, as well as care and determination.  Supporting him as Bob’s daughter Eva is Julia Sara Stone whose expressive doe eyes lend themselves perfectly to the part of a girl finding herself while finding out her father’s secrets.  Another good performance in the film is Camille Sullivan as Eva’s mother and Bob’s ex, Darlene.  Her performance of as a caring mother feels genuine and adds to the family dynamic.

These three, with the help from the support cast, bring the story to life in a realistic manner, as much as can be. The effects, as can be expected from a special effects artist turned film writer and director, are great.  They are not only CGI as one would expect lately, but a mix of traditional effects, animatronics, and visual effects.  This paired with the original take on a man who is becoming invisible creates a striking look for the titular “unseen” man.  The way this look is created and how it evolves is a new take on the subject and very interesting.  Yes, it’s gross at times, but it’s absolutely worth it.  The look is unique and interesting; the way it evolves keeps the attention.  The crew behind this does a fantastic job.

Framing the story and its effects is the cinematography by Stephen Maier which showcases the Canadian North, almost creating a new character out of the locations and making some scenes feel as cold as the weather.  To go with these images, director Rednap tasked Harlow MacFarlane with composing the music for the score which mixes typical score music and industrial sounds that fit the settings perfectly as it sounds organic in the woodmill environment and in the rest of the film.  The songs chosen to add to the score are sometimes haunting, beautiful, and well chosen.  Only one song felt out of place, but the rest of the songs quickly made up for it.

The Unseen is an interesting take on the invisible man trope, showing a new way for the invisibility to take hold as well as a new source for it.  The acting is very good and the story works on multiple levels.  It’s a fairly serious horror drama but not stuffy or heavy per sey.  It explores an original side to the often seen story of a struggling broken family amidst the invisible man aspects.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14th to August 3rd, 2016.