The Unheard: Boston Underground Film Festival
Dir. Jeffrey A. Brown (2023)
A young woman who undergoes an experimental procedure to restore her hearing begins to suffer from auditory hallucinations of her mother, who mysteriously disappeared years before.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
From the writers of the better-than-advertised Crawl and John Carpenter’s The Ward comes The Unheard, premiering at the Boston Underground Film Festival and coming soon exclusively to Shudder. It’s about a young woman named Chloe (Lachlan Watson, Chucky) who lost her hearing to meningitis and is a participant in a phase one study to determine whether stem cells can help fix the nerves that control hearing that would otherwise be lost forever. Chloe’s mom (Michele Hicks) went missing a while back, and unfortunately, as Chloe’s hearing returns, she begins to hallucinate that she can hear her possibly-dead mother. Around the same time, a mysterious killer begins to strike again.
The concept behind the film is interesting, or at least the bones of the concept. A young woman who can’t hear finds herself with her hearing restored, only to hear things that aren’t there? That’s got all kinds of creep factor just built right into it, sort of a disability-vehicled White Noise. There are some genuinely creepy moments throughout the film, but that is also part of the problem that makes the movie not quite live up to its plot potential. Despite the better-than-average acting, the competent cinematography, and the incredible sound design, which is an absolute must for a film like this and definitely lives up to its requirements, the movie winds up being just so-so and not nearly as good as it perhaps should have been.
The primary problem with The Unheard is length. It’s more than two hours long and it absolutely does not need to be. There easily could’ve been thirty minutes shorter, with dozens of scenes that go on for several minutes longer than necessary and some scenes that could just be cut altogether. This was one of a lot of people’s gripes about Terrifier 2, but the primary difference between the two films is that almost every scene in T2 added something, even if it wasn’t directly to the plot. The scene in question, whichever scene it may be, was either gory, funny, entertaining, or bizarre, or some combination of those. The Unheard is filled with scenes that, in retrospect, seem relatively pointless. I’ll refrain from mentioning them here to avoid spoiling the film, but suffice to say, I felt like the filmmakers lost their way a bit in the middle.
Interestingly enough, the ending of the film is quite strong despite its almost transparent predictability. Because of the plot’s slow, trudging nature, the ending almost feels like it proceeds at breakneck speed. The last twenty or so minutes alone is worth the price of admission. Had the film been edited down to a tauter hour and a half, it actually would’ve been a fantastic film. Unfortunately, it’s the choice to keep it longer than it needs to be that makes the movie not nearly as compelling as it perhaps should have been. As it stands, it’s still a decent flick with some nice scares, so if you’re in the mood for a meandering supernatural crime thriller, it may well be right up your alley.
Who this movie is for: Slow burn horror fans, Supernatural crime lovers, People who don’t mind watching a two hour movie for about an hour of meat
Bottom line: A stellar concept that loses its steam, The Unheard has some creepy scenes that may well make it worth a watch. It’s a bit predictable, but the cinematography and acting accomplish enough for the film as a whole to get by. It’s too long by about half, with easily a half hour removable without affecting much of the plot. All those negatives aside, the film fits well into Shudder’s film selection, and it contains a few eerie scares and a pretty decent ending that will make it one you should check out. It’s at the Boston Underground Film Festival this week, so if you don’t catch it there, make sure you catch it streaming on Shudder