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Unwelcome (15)

Cast: Hannah John-Kamen, Colm Meaney, Douglas Booth, Niamh Cusack
Genre: Horror
Author(s): Jon Wright, Mark Stay
Director: Jon Wright
Release Date: 27/01/2023
Running Time: 104mins
Country: UK
Year: 2023

Expectant mother Maya and partner Jamie inherit a tumbledown house in Ireland from his late aunt Maeve and embrace the prospect of a tranquil life in the country. Local handymen led by Daddy Whelan oversee repairs to the property while the local publican Niamh educates the couple about deep-rooted traditions such as leaving a blood sacrifice on a stone altar every evening before sunset. The token offering of raw liver supposedly placates murderous goblins known as redcaps.


LondonNet Film Review

Unwelcome (15) Film Review from LondonNet

An escape to the country transplants creeping dread from concrete tower blocks to a tumbledown house in an otherworldly thriller written by Mark Stay and directed by Jon Wright. Steeped in Anglo-Scottish folklore, Unwelcome teases murderous, pointy-teethed goblins at large in the ancient wood, which surrounds a close-knit Irish community that upholds tradition to placate “the little people”. Two English interlopers to this bucolic idyll dismiss fanciful talk of leprechauns and magical creatures until the one-hour mark when make-up effects artist Shaune Harrison, creature designer Paul Catling and visual effects supervisor Paddy Eason collectively realise diminutive denizens of the dark…

Screenwriter Stay glosses over the most interesting facet of the lead characters’ narrative arcs – the post-traumatic stress of a home invasion – to crudely shepherd most of the cast into one location for a bloodthirsty night-time showdown with the grotesque beasties. Douglas Booth and Hannah John-Kamen gel nicely as embattled lovebirds, who pledge to support each other through thick and thin (“It’s always been you and me versus the rest of the world”) but are ill-prepared to fend off monsters torn from the pages of Grimms’ fairy tales. Telegraphed scares are far milder than the film’s 15 certificate promises and a protracted denouement is anticlimactic.

Expectant mother Maya (John-Kamen) and husband Jamie (Booth) are brutally attacked in their London flat by three knife-wielding thugs, who flee when they hear approaching police sirens. Several months later, the traumatised couple gladly move to rural Ireland to take ownership of a ramshackle property, bequeathed to Jamie by his late aunt Maeve, who firmly believed in the fairies and goblins from folklore. Local publican Niamh (Niamh Cusack) explains to Jamie and heavily pregnant Maya that Maeve left a blood offering – a plate of raw liver – on a stone altar every evening before sunset to placate the voracious redcaps that lurk in the shadows of a surrounding wood.

“She dedicated her life to keeping those monsters on the other side of the wall,” confides the landlady, who implores Maya to uphold tradition. When Maya neglects to heed sage words, something wicked this way comes. Meanwhile, builder Daddy Whelan (Colm Meaney) and his three reprobate offspring (Chris Walley, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, Kristian Nairn) carry out urgent repairs to the house so Jamie and Maya feel safe in their new family home.

Unwelcome is a dawdling mish-mash of genre tropes and cultural stereotypes that loses any sense of urgency after Jamie and Maya flee their urban nightmare for a supposedly tranquil life in the country. Booth and John-Kamen are largely reactive to the chaos swirling around them, drenched in viscous, freshly spilt crimson and viscera. Vicious goblins, realised through prosthetics and make-up effects, animatronics and digital trickery, are impressive and enliven an increasingly silly second act.

– Kim Hu


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