Studio: Cinema Epoch
Director: Sean Bardin, Robert Cooley
Writer: Sean Bardin
Producer: Sean Bardin
Editor: Richard Allen Crook
While vacationing with his girlfriend, Joe Anderson discovers a secret hidden in his grandfather’s barn that may be related to the Roswell UFO crash of 1947.
The distance from Alpha Centauri to Earth is only slightly longer than the journey “Unaware” took from its 2010 debut to its quiet arrival on home video in March of 2013. Beginning in late 2010, the film’s PR efforts primed the pump of anticipation with press releases and festival circuit appearances that put a distinct blip on “found footage” fans’ radars. Only briefly peeking out of obscurity over the next two and a half years, the film’s continued absence almost lent credibility to the marketing angle of a government conspiracy suppressing the footage.
Curiously, the movie’s buzz machine was strangely quiet when the DVD finally hit the market. With nary a peep about the release on any major horror news website, “Unaware” landed as clandestinely as a flying saucer full of greys in the backwoods of an Arkansas swamp.
Ask the most jaded horror film fan what the genre needs more of, and “found footage” will certainly not be at the top of that list. But while “haunted asylum” and “lost in the woods” plotlines flood the sub-genre like Niagara Falls, alien encounters are a seldom seen theme in horror mockumentaries. “Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County” (aka “The McPherson Tape”) may be the only one, and that was released in 1998. Now well into the post-Blair Witch age of “found footage,” the timing seems opportune for an updated take on a backyard extraterrestrial discovery, and “Unaware” takes the bait. With the film accessible at last, the question can now be asked if its conspicuous absence had less to do with imaginary government censorship, and more to do with money-minded distributors steering clear of an albatross.
Joe and Lisa are an average young couple. Having rooted his video camera out of the closet, Joe brings it along for a Texas-style vacation where he plans to drop in unannounced at his grandfather’s remote ranch house. Unfortunately, grandpa Roy is gone for the weekend. Undeterred, Joe finds the spare key and invites himself and his honey inside for the weekend. And that mysterious barn out back that grandpa never let Joe near as a kid? Maybe it is time to sneak a peek at what is inside.
Seemingly every “found footage” review I have written includes a reminder that the first hour of such films usually risks being a snooze fest, and this movie cannonballs into the deep end of that whirlpool. “Unaware” takes home top dishonors as the most uneventful first two acts ever presented in “found footage.” The fault for this yawn inducing intolerability rests with the torturously beige pairing of the two leads.
Average characters are fine for relating to. Depicting their average daily experiences is not fine for entertainment. While Joe and Lisa are no firebrands, it is their weekend that is excruciatingly dull.
In the most unromantic marriage proposal of all time, Joe goes down on one knee and pops the question in his grandparents’ kitchen. As if that location choice is not unmemorable enough, what follows is a sequence so pathetic that any self-respecting woman would have every right to say, “that’s it?” and storm off in a fuming cloud of miffed silence. Lisa accepts, the couple kisses, and then Joe says, “I’m hungry.” Luckily, Joe has prepared a celebratory meal for his fiancée that consists of toothpick skewered turkey breast slices. Because if anything says, “I love you,” it’s deli meat. Lisa must be accustomed to disappointment because when Joe asks if he “did good” with his setup, Lisa giddily exclaims, “you did!” even though Joe also forgot to light the two candles sitting between them.
Previously, Joe sent Lisa to the video store to acquire entertainment for the evening. Ignoring how she knew her way around town when Joe was taking her there for the first time, Lisa returns with “Roman Holiday.” A black-and-white movie is appropriate, seeing as how grandpa Ray still has the world’s oldest tube television. Watching the couple watch the movie would have been more entertaining than what they actually do, which is hula-hooping, trying to fix the satellite TV connection, and inspecting a rusted bathtub.
Even the most disappointing “found footage” entries shoehorn forced scares simply to keep the audience awake. Hitting or nearly hitting something with the car. A loud crash or thump that turns out to be an animal. Something. Anything. The first time something creepy finally appears in “Unaware,” I had to rewind the too brief moment twice because I missed it two times. I would have missed it completely if not for the music sting that tipped off its appearance.
There is a delicate line between showing too much and showing not enough. “Unaware” is in no danger of even touching that line because it is so deeply entrenched in the camp of showing almost nothing at all. When Joe and Lisa do discover the secret of grandpa’s barn, their first instinct is to run away from an inanimate object. Not only an unbelievable reaction, it fails to sufficiently reward the curious audience who patiently endured the boredom of Joe and Lisa’s relationship to arrive at an under-delivered moment of suspense.
To maximize any enjoyment of this movie, do not watch the trailer. “Unaware” contains only a scant few seconds of what alien abduction fans want to see, and nearly the entirety of that footage is included in the trailer. If you have seen the trailer, you have seen most of the thrills “Unaware” has to offer.
“Unaware” is unsatisfying on more than one level. From the dull couple to the laughable actions of the men in black, character behavior is either boring or unbelievable. The premise that makes the movie appealing is delivered in underwhelming portions. And anyone hungry for extraterrestrial chills will leave “Unaware” still starving. Unless the adrenaline shot needed to recover from the boredom qualifies as nourishment.
Review Score: 30