"Are you okay? You look like you've seen a ghost."
If a character in your ghost film says that within the first five minutes, yooooou might've made a clichéd ghost film. You might argue that, by now, everything has been done - especially in the ghost sub-genre - so it becomes hard to avoid one cliché after another. Fortunately, there are some films out there, like Ti West's The Innkeepers or Scott Derrickson's Sinister, that can overcome those obstacles and present something familiar yet fresh at the same time.
But then you've got films like The Unbroken that play out as if its filmmakers were told one single ghost story in their youth and then thought, "We should make that into a movie or something. No one's done that before, right?"
And the requisite beats are all here: the recently displaced character with a new home after an unfortunate event, the creepy totem of the deceased (in this case, a laughing clown doll), and a roster of shady characters whom you'll think are the killers responsible for the death of the person now haunting said character. Oh, and twist ending the end.
Add Warwick Davis and you've got The Unbroken, which we've seen a hundred times already. The script contains groundbreaking new character tropes like Bitter Old Woman, Horny Young Adult Jokester, and, of course, Creepy Kid Ghost.
Sarah Campbell (Aurelia Rose) is the recently displaced (and divorced) main character finding herself in a new environment that happens to be douched with ghost. At first she accuses one of her neighbors of all the ghostly goings-on...that is until the ghost boy appears directly in front of her, wearing a ghost red turtleneck and overalls. This sends her into the comforting presence of Tommy (Patrick Flanagan), the previously mentioned character who tries with every line of dialogue to provide comic relief, but instead becomes nails on a chalk board. "Most ghost movies suck, except...Ghostbusters," he even has the audacity to say.
Further, Tommy tells Sarah what usually happens in ghost movies after someone sees a ghost: go to a psychic. So, Sarah does just that. Warwick Davis, the last person you would expect to play a psychic, psychics the hell out of his part, saying things like "sage" and "negative energy." Just like REAL movie psychics!
The Unbroken is supposed to be ironic, but it comes across as lazy. It's also supposed to be scary, but instead induces eye rolls and chuckles. The script can be aggravating at times, to the point where you fight the urge to shout at the characters on screen. For instance: the manager of the complex where Sarah is staying tells her she will send up her nephew to help Sarah move her stuff in. Not minutes later, a teen boy shows up and says, "My aunt told me to help you move in," to which Sarah responds: "Who is your aunt??"
Seriously? Do you not remember the conversation from 37 seconds ago?
There's also no respect for either physical or psychological continuity. In one scene, for instance, the glass shower door shatters and sends broken shards ripping across Sarah's flesh, leaving nasty cuts across her arm and back. Later that night at an art opening, Sarah's sleeveless dress reveals her soft, tanned, and untainted flesh. And it's at this art gallery where her ex is (nearly?) killed and she barely reacts, looking more embarrassed than alarmed. It's noticeable, distracting, and rather bush league.
|"Sorry, Warwick - we've already cast the boy ghost."|
Aurelia Rose as our protag does a serviceable job, and she's awful purty, but the film surrounding her is dull and uninspired. The remaining cast looks exhausted, especially Daniel Baldwin, who visualizes in his mind finally paying off the rest of his new van by having agreed to appear in this; his complete disinterest in the material comes across in nearly every word of his performance.
I honestly don't know to whom I would recommend The Unbroken. Have you never seen a ghost film, ever? Do you not know anything at all about ghosts you couldn't have learned from Casper? Is someone jumping out of a closet and shouting boo enough to send you into a frenzy of fear? Then hey, check out The Unbroken, if only to work your way up to something more deserving.
I, for one, did learn something from having watched, and it's something I can reiterate here:
Most ghost movies suck.