Studio: Inception Media Group
Director: Jason M. Murphy
Writer: Tony Giordano
Producer: Kenny Beaumont, Tony Giordano, Jason M. Murphy
Stars: Daniel Baldwin, Aurelia Rose, Patrick Dennis Flanagan, Warwick Davis
When the ghost of a strange little boy begins appearing in shattered glass and broken mirrors, apartment resident Sarah Campbell is compelled to solve the mystery of who the boy is and what he wants from beyond the grave.
Malevolent ghosts can be frightening. Benevolent ghosts usually are not. At the heart of “The Unbroken” is an apparition of the latter variety. This is one of those PG-13 ghost stories where a spirit from beyond tries imparting a message to the living so that he may finally be at peace. Yet even for a seemingly benevolent ghost, shattering mirrors and breaking glass around a recently divorced fledgling artist is the best way he knows how to grab attention.
Following a bitter separation stemming from her ex-husband knocking up a 19-year-old, Sarah Campbell starts a fresh chapter in her life by moving into a new apartment. While pulling into the complex, Sarah commits a cardinal horror movie sin by taking her eyes off the road momentarily. In that moment, the front grill of her suburban pummels a little boy in overalls head on. Except when she exits her car to check on the child, Sarah finds only his creepy clown doll lying in the middle of the road. The boy is nowhere to be found. Stranger still, every time she mentions the little boy or shows the doll to anyone in the building, Sarah is greeted with cold stares and tight lips.
Sarah is about to discover what horror film fans already know. Whenever an old woman issues a cryptic warning and then slams her door in your face after being asked about a boy who was not there, it is a clear indicator that there is more to this story.
Boxes are not even unpacked when the boy starts reappearing regularly. Often he shows himself to Sarah in a reflection before breaking the glass, whether it is a mirror, eyeglass lens, or shower door. Sarah then enlists the aid of her helpful neighbor Tommy and a not as helpful local psychic as she tries to figure out who the boy is, what he wants, and how her odd neighbor Bruce might be connected.
Like a spirit trapped passing between this world and the next, “The Unbroken” exists alongside its mediocre ghost story counterparts in a realm between watchable and forgettable. It is not a messy failure, but the movie is also not scary. The cast and crew give it a decent effort, yet the end product is uninspired and unremarkable.
Director Jason M. Murphy would benefit from a longer shooting schedule on his next go. There is a measured stiffness across the board in the performances that provokes clenched teeth while watching the pained dialogue delivery. The material is not great to begin with, but there is a feeling that many of the actors barely knew their characters and had only seen the script seconds before the camera rolled.
Some performances improve moderately as the film wears on, although there is still that sense of each scene being the first take. Had there been more time for everyone to engross themselves in the story prior to shooting, “The Unbroken” would have played like less of a TV movie. The cast appears to be better than the work they put onscreen. They also appear to be unsettled and unrehearsed and the fault for that has to lie with the director.
Being a horror/thriller, “The Unbroken” has a greater issue in that it is not the least bit terrifying. When it comes time to make a list of creepy children from scary films, that roster will include resurrected Gage Creed, the entire Village of the Damned, and the Japanese boy from “The Grudge.” Nowhere on that list will be the overall-clad kid from “The Unbroken.” Accompanied by well-lit daylight appearances and a “Romper Room” cuteness in his face, this little boy’s look inspires far more “awwwws” than “ewwwws.”
“The Unbroken” is much more of a mystery than anything else. The trouble there is that the mystery takes too long to captivate. The movie is well on its way before the nature of the apparition begins to reveal itself. By then, those looking for thrills will have tuned out from the almost bloodless horror. A ghost child breaking mirrors carries suspense a very limited distance. “The Unbroken” tries to take it for 100 minutes, and that is longer than it should be.
“The Unbroken” is one of those films where the final revelation comes with a realization that the rest of the film does not make sense in light of the finale. In fact, with nothing frightening to distract from its tameness, much of the movie crumples like a house of cards when viewed with fully open eyes. Warwick Davis is misused as a psychic in a role that normally would have been “the wise person who knows everything” and informs the heroine all about ghosts and how to deal with them. Instead, he is really a huckster that sells Sarah trinkets in hopes of exorcising the spirit. Even though he is of zero help, she goes back to him three times. Like the audience, presumably she finally realized that he added nothing of substance to the plot.
A nice twist pulls the story out of a hole late in the game. It just is not enough for the home team to pull ahead and win. In fact, the stands have already cleared and everyone left in the fourth inning to beat traffic. Had the true nature of the haunting played a greater role and been developed prior to the final minutes, “The Unbroken” could have been something sinisterly entertaining.
Review Score: 50