The Unborn (1991)

A new generation in terror.
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The Unborn - A new generation in terror.

Back in the early nineties when things were swell, Roger Corman presented The Unborn. A film more suited to the late seventies with regards to style and that has no relation to the PG-13 movie from 2009 apart from the exact same title and a similar plot. The retro feel that plays a heavy part in the movies that Corman produces is apparent here and this is possibly helped due to the fact that it is directed by his buddy Rodman Flender (also director of Leprechaun 2). Flender, once the boss of Corman's Concorde Pictures, takes the directorial reins and enables the written words of the dynamic duo that would later bring us the script of Catwoman to come to the screen. John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris wrote this under the shared pseudonym of Henry Dominic.

The Unborn has become a classic movie for those with a taste for low budget schlock horror and no aversion to tastelessness. The movie tries very hard to shock the viewer but manages to retain a quaint charm throughout. Creepy kids with murderous intent, subliminal messages from megalomaniacs, violent miscarriages, knife inflicted self-abortion, kitty killing, attempted back-alley feticide and dumpster babies are combined to create a movie that still maintains an element of cute while also conflictingly achieving dark and depressing. Numerous angles are combined to try and encapsulate all that was popular in horror at the time and the story borrows heavily from everywhere but has chopped and changed things sufficiently to still emit an air of originality.

Any hack horror movie maker knows that the quickest profits come from exploiting current affairs that are worrying the tabloid brainwashed population at the time. The Unborn embraces genetic paranoia at a time when the human genome project was just getting into full swing and the sensationalist media was determined to convince the susceptible that mad scientists were creating evil mutants. It embodies this quite convincingly while maintaining the ill-informedness of the media's research. Being about an evil geneticist creating a master race of babies without parental consent, perfectly plays on the fears of the masses and includes enough bad taste to cause a stir. The horror marketing machine is once again well oiled.

The Unborn also manages to explore the paranoias associated with pregnancy in an expectedly tasteless way and, as mentioned all over the Internet, there are similarities in the plot to Rosemary's Baby. A couple, Virginia (Brooke Adams looking slightly like Gizmo), an author of children's books, and Brad Marshall (Jeff Hayenga) are trying unsuccessfully for a baby. They resort to some unconventional methods due to nature failing them. It is a success but something seems amiss and soon Virginia is afflicted with violent mood swings, an urge to eat raw sausages and a fixation with drawing Playstation symbols. A concerned friend arouses suspicions but ends up dead and it eventually turns out "someone" in the relationship knew of the shenanigans all along. The Unborn adopts much more of a science fiction approach rather than Satanic possession and utilises enough ideas from other stories to mash-up the plot elements in an unconventional way. It's not genius but it suffices to elevate itself above the dreck.

The movie also boasts early appearances from Lisa Kudrow (playing a receptionist) and Kathy Griffin (playing Connie Chicago). Phoebe's appearance is brief but the promise of Kathy Griffin getting her skull pummelled by a hammer is encouragement enough to want to experience this film. Coincidentally Kathy Griffin falls victim to the rage of a character played by actress Wendy Hammers. Oh the irony...

With about 20 minutes left and, typically of this style of film (after a random encounter with a midget on a skateboard), there is a point in the movie when it jumps the sharktopus and becomes about super-intelligent murderous aborted foetuses liberated from the dumpster from whence they were dumped. By this time the tone of the film has been set. Those experienced in things presented by Roger Corman will be expecting this craziness and for this reason it works. Without this, The Unborn wouldn't have had the impact that it did and wouldn't have reached cult status for people looking for something nostalgic and in bad taste.
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