Maya (Hannah John-Kamen) and Jamie (Douglas Booth) have made an enormous discovery: they’re about to become parents. Jamie visits his local shop to buy something to help celebrate the evening, but sadly, for Maya and Jamie, the night, which should have been a celebration, ends with tragedy. Consequently, Maya and Jamie decide they’ve had enough of city life and want something quieter and more peaceful. To their surprise, something occurs that only encourages them to take the first step- they are left a home in rural Ireland by a relative who recently passed on.
Arriving at the new home, they make some strange discoveries, including that the previous owner used to offer a blood offering before sunset, and the property includes a room in the woods not far from the house. Rumour is that these things were done for “the little people”. Maya and Jamie are informed they must continue to offer the blood offering (e.g. provide a liver) to continue living in the house. Given the peace, safety, and fantastic looking home, they agree to continue the tradition and begin their new lives as a soon-to-be family. However, problems soon arise. As the house requires work, Maya and Jamie hire a family to repair it but soon find more than they expected. On top of that, the little people/creatures seem to lurk around Maya and Jamie’s property.
Unwelcome is best described as a horror with an element of fantasy, particularly regarding the little people/creatures who linger around Maya and Jamie’s property. The opening is heavy, dramatic, and tense to watch. It’s a healthy way to get audiences’ attention, and it’s impossible not to feel heavy-hearted or deeply impacted by it. Our characters here, for the most part, are likeable, notably Maya. It’s evident that Maya is wiser and mentally stronger than her partner Jamie. At times, Jamie does make poor choices, and there are moments when his emotions get the better of him. At the same time, although it may seem annoying, it was welcoming to see Maya as a more decisive lead instead of the film being cliché with a male character always saving the girl. As a couple, there were also moments where I felt they were either being used or bullied but would fail to make a stand or speak up, which did bother me multiple times.
The setting is excellent. I loved the location and the house where our leads attempt to live in peace despite the trouble that keeps finding them no matter how hard they try to lay low. A significant highlight of the entire movie is the fantasy aspect relating to the little goblin-like creatures. The villains are a combination of cruel and over-the-top. At the start, these creatures are unknown and mysterious. By the third and final act, all reveals will leave audiences either amazed or generally shocked, given the level of gore and violence. Small credit goes out to the plot twist, even though this was somewhat predictable and too much was given away during the runtime.
Overall, a horror film with a strong fantasy element is a welcoming experience. Unwelcome introduces leads different from the standard formula in many horror films. While some characters might appear annoying or weak, I appreciated the concept. The fantasy element, including the little goblin-like creatures, is a massive praise point, and their presence took me back to my childhood favourites such as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. The second act is drawn out and bogged with scenes that overstay their welcome. However, there’s no denying it; the film begins with a hard-hitting set and a conclusion that goes all in. It’s gruesome, rather bloody, and fun. In the end, I still couldn’t help but feel somewhat disappointed with how much greater this feature could have been.
Unwelcome (2022) is Available on Shudder from June 23rd!