Whimsical and creepy. Jon Wright’s Unwelcome is a dark fantasy steeped in Irish folklore, but with a sinister spin. While the first act is a bit clunky, after the intense prologue that is, once the second act kicks into gear, the movie delivers on thrills and kills—and cheers for practical effects!! Fellow Trekkies will also enjoy the cameo from Star Trek’s Chief O’Brien.
A couple escape their urban nightmare to the tranquility of rural Ireland, only to hear stories of mysterious creatures who live in the gnarled, ancient woods at the foot of their garden. As warned by their new neighbors, the creatures come when called to help souls in dire need of rescue, but it’s crucial to remember that there’s always a dear price to pay for their aid.
Unwelcome draws audiences in with its immersive atmosphere and chilling mythos, but falters in pacing. After a gripping prologue, the first act struggles to find its footing to keep the pacing suitable for the rest of the setup. Often times this screenwriting problem occurs when the writer and/or director attempts to add greater gravitas to the story than is required or needed. Moreover, there is time spent with side characters and establishing setting that delays the transition to the development stage of the story, which would have benefitted the overall pacing of this quasi-methodical horror film. Once audiences are launched into the second act, the remainder of the film unfolds nicely.
Even though this is in-part a dark fantasy, when the kills hit, they hit! Wright (along with cowriter Mark Stay) strike a fantastic balance between horror and fantasy, simultaneously satisfying the expectations for both. While the kills may not be inordinately creative, they are sufficiently entertaining. By relying on practical effects, the experience of the film increases in dimension significantly. And I’m not just talking about the kills, but the excellent puppetry, makeup effects, and prosthetics of the little people. Over all, Unwelcome is a decent horror film that deserves a watch if you enjoy folklore-based stories that are familiar yet still find ways of surprising you.
Ryan teaches Film Studies and Screenwriting at the University of Tampa and is a member of the Critics Association of Central Florida and Indie Film Critics of America. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter. If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.