‘The Unraveling’ isn’t Terrifying, but it Does Have a Powerful Pulse (Review)
Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Thomas Jakobsen
Cast: Zack Gold, Jason Tobias, Bennett Viso
Michael is struggling in life. He’s a junkie, he’s on the cusp of losing his job, and he’s stolen from a well-known and dangerous drug dealer. And to top it all off, he’s even fumbling through his wedding. The confused man even goes so far as to miss his own bachelor party. In other words, Michael’s a spiraling case with little hope of righting the vessel.
While working one day, a handful of men in masks swarm Michael, catching him off guard and throwing him in the trunk of a car. He’s bound by zip ties and that trunk is a tight fit. There will be no escaping this predicament. But where is he headed, and who were the mystery men to kidnap Michael?
These are very significant questions to which I really prefer not to answer as I aim to omit spoilers whenever possible. Now, that said, I will tell you that the entire lot find themselves in a secluded, rural stretch. And, one by one, the group either go missing, or wind up dead, left in staged positions, the doom of the situation hammered home for the remaining survivors.
Eventually, it’s only Michael that remains, barreling through the wilderness in an attempt to escape who, or what it is that’s already knocked off the others one by one. And, miraculously, he actually manages to find civilization, and even better yet, he’s able to flag down a passing motorist.
Where the narrative heads from here is for me to know, and you to find out once you look into this very engaging tale that begins on a cliché note, but reaches a generally atypical and very satisfying finale.
Moving on from the story specifics, we can begin to discuss some of the technical accomplishments. And while there are a few minor stumbles in the production, it’s a generally impressive films.
When it comes to weaknesses, my only serious complaint is that I’ve seen this story before, released under a different title. I won’t spell that title out for you, as it’s just about guaranteed to spoil plot details of The Unraveling (assuming you’ve seen the other film that I’m thinking of), and this one doesn’t deserve to be spoiled. It’s ambitious, and it deserves a chance to impress.
The Unraveling is a compelling piece of work that’s really more about self-examination than any form of outright horror. Having said that, however, there are no doubt a handful of macabre sequences in the picture that completely justify labeling the picture a horror installment. But again, focus on the personalities featured in the film as opposed to the taut sequences designed to frighten the viewer. It’s here, within the human angles of The Unraveling, that the entire package shines.
Honestly, this feature is a rather easy piece to assess: If you’re a fan of character studies, you’ll adore The Unraveling; If you demand buckets of blood, body parts flying around and skulls being smashed into jagged fragments, you might find yourself a little disappointed by Thomas Jakobsen’s directorial debut.
As for the technical aspects of the flick, there are very few missteps to pick at, so we’ll skip the trouncing and move on to the impressive elements of this spirited indie pic.
Every performer in front of the camera brings something unique to the story. These aren’t cardboard cutouts, they’re individuals with different mannerisms and unique idiosyncrasies. A good portion of the ensemble is also surprisingly likable. That’s something we don’t see every day, especially in the horror genre, where undereducated guys with a camera constantly rush to piece together their “breakthrough masterpiece,” despite the fact that a large portion of those films are little more than complete trash.
Jakobsen is no cinematic peasant. Unlike many rookies of celluloid, he clearly understands the mechanics of storytelling as well as filmmaking, and that earns big points in my book. Justin S. Monroe co-writes the movie with Jakobsen, and the two work quite well together, developing a story that can be examined by numerous different vantage points.
Zack Gold, who fronts the picture as Michael, is awfully impressive, bringing life’s struggles to the screen in organic fashion. Gold doesn’t fight to channel his character, he allows a natural comfort in his craft and ease in front of the camera to trigger his depressing but accurate portrayal of a junkie on the verge of destruction. It’s good work, and Gold gets plenty of excellent backup from the remaining members of the ensemble.
Chris Witt does an excellent job of editing the film, allowing flashbacks to swerve into current, real life troubles without so much as a hiccup in the flow of storytelling. And Milton Santiago gives us some fine cinematography, his transitions smooth, his understanding of low lighting quite remarkable.
Behind the cameras, The Unraveling is impressive. In front of the cameras, The Unraveling is impressive. And while this particular piece may not invoke much genuine terror (to be honest, it isn’t a frightening film by any stretch), it’s a well-polished film with great dialogue, inspired performances on display and a message that’s bound to hit home for many of us shambling our way through life, in debt, feeling alone and ultimately lost.
Don’t let the light load of gore or scares send you running in the opposite direction. The Unraveling has a heart that pounds hard and if you listen close enough, you’ll clearly hear the pulse of inspiration beating a smooth rhythmic pattern that just might touch you in a place far beneath the surface.
We’re deep into 2016 at this point, but The Unraveling is yet another indie pic to keep on your radar.
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