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Fantasia 2016 Review: THE UNSEEN



I'm a pretty big fan of  H.G. Wells brand of pseudo scientific tomes and have a deep affection for THE INVISIBLE MAN. It's a story that lends itself to countless adaptations and interpretations but sadly most versions of that tale are fairly limited in their vision. They see the material as a venue to show off special effects wizardry (HOLLOW MAN, MEMORIES OF AN INVISIBLE MAN) and don't see it fit to spend time on the characters. I've always subscribed to the notion, if you care about the characters the film will carry more weight. The writer/director of THE UNSEEN Geoff Redknap adheres to this same philosophy and has made one of the most effective genre films of the year.

Bob Langmore (Aden Young) is estranged from his family and grinding out a living as a mill worker in a rural Canadian town. We find out Bob is a former NHL player who was kicked out of the league for a brawl on the ice that went too far. This revelation doesn't come from our protagonist but from a coworker who questions him about his past. You see Bob isn't the kind of person to boast or brag about his accomplishments. Bob is quite and unassuming but you can detect a certain amount of menace just underneath the surface.

Centering the film around Bob makes this world approachable and grounded in a familiar reality. I'm not the type of person terribly concerned with how relate able a character is, generally speaking as long as they are on an interesting journey, I'm more than happy to tag along. Even if you don't personally relate to Bob its hard not to pull for him. In this particular incarnation of the invisible man story we aren't following the antics of a scientist deranged with power when he can no longer be seen but rather we follow a man who is stricken with invisibility. He is suffering through the transformation and in that way the film treats invisibility as a disease.

The anguish of invisibility is something completely unique to this project and Aden Young is without a doubt the films greatest special effect.  His ability to convey agony is remarkable. Almost every scene with Bob is dripping with distress and sadness. The plot of THE UNSEEN is propelled forward when Bob's estranged daughter goes missing and his ex-wife reaches out to him for help.

I had the chance to speak with the director about the film and while he states he really didn't have any greater subtext in mind when he made the film its hard not to think of this film as a commentary on the working class. Not unlike when George A. Romero cast an African American as the lead in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD he was just "hiring the best actor." But that choice without question added a degree of social commentary. By focusing on a mill worker who left his family we see a man who is not only literally disappearing in the film but figuratively disappearing from our society as well.

THE UNSEEN not only works as a genre piece with more than enough set pieces to keep the Fangoria crowd interested but the film really works as a character study. The core of our narrative is about family and not in a Vin Disel Fast Five "family" kind of way but in the way that anyone with divorced parents will recognize. This film just had its world premier at Fantasia Fest 2016 and is currently looking for distribution.



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