Jason Todd Ipson is a renaissance man. In addition to being a filmmaker and producer, he is a physician and a surgeon, a fashion photographer, and I’m fairly certain at some point he’ll find a cure for cancer. He loves Norse mythology and he named his sons Odin and Thor, which means they will no doubt grow up to be total badasses on the playground and eventually bodybuilders or action heroes. Oh fuck, or both. God help us all if this is the case. His foray into filmmaking came when he was apparently bored with medical school and decided he would rather write screenplays for a living, a move that reveals itself to be a HUGE FUCKING MISTAKE when you watch Unrest, his abortion of a horror film.
The film revolves around first year med student Alison Blanchard and her quest to solve the riddle of the Mysterious Cadaver she and three other students have been assigned to dissect. This cadaver is no ordinary cadaver, as it supposedly rains down death and destruction upon all those who come in contact with it. We eventually learn the spirit is angry or some other stupid bullshit plot device that’s been beaten to death, and it’s a race against time to put the body at rest to appease the Aztec goddess Tlazolteotl who apparently doesn’t take too kindly to people disrespecting a body that uncovered a mass grave of sacrificial victims in Brazil. Or something like that.
I’d explain it better, but the absence of logic behind it gives me a headache.
One of the film’s selling points is that it was shot in a real morgue, an appropriate setting for the completely lifeless acting and dialogue that pervades this abomination. Not one character was believable, especially the lead, who alternated between fear and absolute apathy over the gruesome and unexpected deaths of those around her at the drop of the hat. The remaining characters served as nothing more than avenging-spirit / corpse fodder, except for one guy who had to pull double duty as a love interest. Next to veteran Irish actor Derrick O’Connor, who portrayed the anatomy professor in a manner that didn’t make me want to kill someone, the best performance was given by the cadaver.
Gore is given leeway in favor of suspense and the power of suggestion, though this failed due to Ipson’s inability to write decent characters or dialogue. A few scenes of blood are present, and there are of course the myriad of corpses, though blood is rarely seen in this context. I do have to applaud his portrayal of the cadavers, which displays clearly his background as a physician and surgeon. The appearance of the bodies accurately reflected how bodies actually look after they’ve been pumped full of formaldehyde (or so I assume – I haven’t seen too many bodies), and the presentation of their organs and skeletal structure once dissected did more to encourage inquiry and frighten than to gross people out.
As was stated above, Ipson is a fairly learned individual, and certainly a hit at parties. This is reflected in Unrest, as he tries to cram in all that he’s learned about medicine and the human body and Aztec mythology. Filling out the bits where none of this is featured is the debate between faith in God and atheism, or rather, faith in general and atheism. Several times throughout the film we’re reminded of Alison’s atheism, a subject that doesn’t sit right with Carlos, one of the men in her dissection group and unfortunately one of the many, many victims of the (in)corporeal antagonist. I really have nothing witty or clever to say about this. It seemed unnecessary and out of place and seemed to serve as nothing more than a means for Ipson to include more pretentious bullshit into his already convoluted film.
Now, Unrest wasn’t all bad, as it did have a few moments where I wasn’t either laughing in disbelief or praying to God the corpses would jump up and start singing A Chorus Line. I found the first twenty minutes to actually be worth a damn, purveying an adequate amount of suspense unencumbered by the overuse of a hackneyed score that offered absolutely nothing original to the fold. A few times the lead actress took her top off, seemingly for no other reason than to show off her tits in a wet bra, though I suppose if you’re jumping into a pool of ice cold water littered with dead bodies, stripping down to your skivvies is the right thing to do.
This review sucks for me because this film could have been so much more. It possessed a decent premise and had the potential to be a truly terrifying film, but it fell completely flat due to a beginning screenwriter committing nearly every cardinal sin of horror films. His decision to combine the supernatural with the mythological and place it in a modern setting resulted in a garbled mess that is sadly par for the course when it comes to contemporary horror.