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‘Unnerved’ Ratchets Up Tension ’Til … What?

Posted on April 9th, 2017 in Entertainment, Movies with 0 Comments

Mark DiConzo and Katie Morrison play a married couple haunted by an evil presence in "Unnerved."

Mark DiConzo and Katie Morrison play a married couple haunted by an evil presence in “Unnerved.”

Director Gary King’s latest effort, the horror/suspense film Unnerved, had its world premiere April 7 at the Phoenix Film Festival.

I’ve met King a couple of times, and he’s a great guy. I loved his musical How Do You Write a Joe Schermann Song, which won the festival’s Audience Award in 2012. He co-wrote Unnerved with his brother Michael and co-produced it with his wife, Sujata, Mark DiConzo and Christi Ciani. (DiConzo also acted in, co-produced and co-choreographed Schermann Song.)

There is much to like about Unnerved, which follows a married couple haunted by an evil presence since the death of their young son. Much like in 2014’s It Follows, but scarier, people rather than places are haunted; the specter follows them to different locations.

I liked the way King used uncomfortable camera angles, creepy music and unpredictable timing to literally unnerve the audience, ratcheting up the tension without resorting to blood and gore. It was artistic.

I also liked the performances from the three central actors, DiConzo and Katie Morrison as Frank and Mallory McDowell, and Elena Sanz as paranormal investigator Eleanor.

No Payoff

I was along for the ride right up to the climax. But the last 10 minutes of the film left me asking, “What the hell happened?”

The lighting was really dim; the camera jumped around and there was little expository dialogue. I still don’t understand the nature of the evil entity and how it ultimately influenced the characters. I’m not even clear about whether certain characters lived or died.

If the conclusion was an attempt to resolve the plot, it failed. If the intent was ambiguity, it was too successful. A film that asks its audience to invest so heavily and spends so much time building tension should deliver a clear payoff at the end.

It was disappointing – both the ending itself and the way it snuffed out what, to that point, was a pretty good thriller.


Stu Robinson does writing, editing, media relations and social media through his business, Phoenix-based Lightbulb Communications.

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