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The Unborn (Blu-ray Review)

Return of the Living Dead: Part II isn’t the only James Karen film that Scream Factory will be releasing on August 11th. Rodman Flender’s 1991 film, The Unborn starring Brooke Adams, will also be making its Blu-ray debut. This pregnancy, demon baby horror film produced by Roger Corman is in no way related to the 2009 film of the same title. This one actually wound up with a sequel as well. The release will feature a new 2K scan of the original film elements and a commentary from director Rodman Flender to boot. Hail as “More frightening than Rosemary’s Baby”, this is one you may want to revisit or add to your growing collection. You can ensure you have a copy by August 14, by pre-ordering from the Amazon link following the review.

Film 

A young woman named Virginia Marshall is desperate to have a child. She joins an experimental in-vitro fertilization trial that succeeds, but something weird is happening to the fetus. She suspects that a mysterious doctor has inseminated her with mutated sperm in an attempt to create a super-human fetus. Unfortunately, there are extreme side-effects. She’s impregnated with a new generation of terror!

While this movie is called The Unborn, it also seems to have birthed some careers for many involved with the film. First and foremost, this movie contains some more significant early roles for comedian Kathy Griffin and actor Lisa Kudrow (A brunette when seen in this). The film marks the directorial debut of Rodman Flender who would go on to a lucrative career in both television and film (Idle Hands, Party of Five among many other things). Perhaps one of the biggest names on it is Wally Pfister. This is the man who shot most Christopher Nolan films (All 3 Batmans, Insomnia, Inception, Memento, The Prestige) as well as The Italian Job and Moneyball. He also directed Transcendence, but lets not talk about that.

The Unborn is hard not to compare to Rosemary’s Baby, because, well, its a different take on that same topic. It’s that subgenre of horror revolving around pregnancy paranoia. This one takes the religion out of it and is more science based. It also makes the decision to go beyond where Rosemary’s Baby went and give its protagonist a bit more fight and confrontation in her narrative. Brooke Adams is no stranger to paranoia sci-fi terror, having starred in one of the greatest horror films of all time in the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Adams has a challenge here and handles it with prestige. Never does it feel hammy, campy or over the top where it could have been with the wrong performer. Her performance in the film brings it some real class that it might’ve been missing without her adding that flavor.

Gore in this film isn’t all over the place, but it manages to deliver quite effectively when it does make itself known. There is just gushing everywhere. That stuff really works. Some of the baby models and the like are kind of just good enough, but is the only place where it could be seen as lacking. Overall, the movie surrounding it is good enough to warrant overlooking a chink in the armor here or there. And with Pfisters cinematography, everything is captured really well and elevates this movie past whatever cheap horror film I imagine Roger Corman set out to have it be in the first place.

Rodman Flender’s debut film, The Unborn is much better than you’d really expect when you think of a Roger Corman take on Rosemary’s Baby. It actually really works and delivers. Much of that is due to a talented lead and cinematographer being on board. Its a brisk walk through many steps Polanski’s film took, but with much different details, characters and having its own way of confronting the terrors.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The Unborn arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a new 2K scan of the original film elements. And it looks pretty terrific. It retains a nice cinematic look that feels a step above most “par for the course” Scream Factory titles. It has a rather softer, grainy look to it with some good colors that pop and strong details in many facets like the nicks and wear on a wooden desk, knitting on a sweater or the scratches on a formica countertop. This is an effect and very satisfying transfer.

Depth:  Solid depth of field between the foreground and background feeling good and spacious from the characters and their background. No real issues with motion distortions either.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and carry a bit heavier (Or more noticeable) grain. Details are kept to a very good degree with textures and patterns of things like the couch, hair follicles and fabric. NO crushing witnessed during this viewing either.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty natural with a nifty bold appearance. Some clothing choices can pop pretty good, for example a red sweater Brooke Adams wears at one point in the film. Some blue tones can strike decently as well.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Stubble, dirt, bruising, make-up, lip texture and more come through quite well in close-ups and most medium shots. As a part of bringing it to high definition, a latex appliance on Brooke Adams’ neck in the film becomes a bit more obvious due to the difference in skin tones.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: The Unborn features a rather playful 2.0 stereo track that really works the effects and score effectively into the mix. They both can have some impressive and immersive impact on things. This is makes for a bit more of a fun and engaging watch.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With Producer/Director Rodman Flender and Filmmaker Adam Simon

Trailer (HD, 1:42)

Summary 

The Unborn, quite simply, is the tad more schlocky cousin to Rosemary’s Baby and while not as prestigious, still fun at its core level. Scream Factory gives birth to a pretty fine looking and sounding Blu-ray for the film. Extras are light, but don’t count out the commentary as not being an hour and a half of good content from director Rodman Flender discussing his first film. At a solid price this is a nice vintage pregnancy-horror film to fill up your subgenre section in the collection.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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