Unwelcome is a movie I went into thinking ‘oh gods, another horror that will be terrible’. I hadn’t looked into who made it or who was in it other, than what I had seen in a trailer. I remember having a small spark of hope, as I think Hannah John-Kamen (Killjoys) is awesome and is the lead. I was not expecting to really enjoy the film at all. Let me tell you why!
So, what’s it about? It’s a mix of a trauma and Irish folk movie, horror, comedy… Yeah, this is a weird one! That’s what you get from director Jon Wright, who cowrote it with Mark Stay. Wright made Grabbers and a few other smaller movies that are all rather quirky. Unwelcome is certainly that.
Jamie (Douglas Booth) and wife Maya (Hannah John-Kamen) move to Ireland after a brutal attack in their home in England. I was actually quite surprised at how brutal the scene was. It makes the trauma of the characters that permeates throughout the movie feel very justified. You can see why Jamie has turned into the man he is, and why he’s so broken and also why Maya takes charge.
Jamie’s aunt has died and left them a lovely Irish farm house to move into. Only there are some things that are not quite right…
A tale of two halves
Unwelcome is a movie that is split in two. So I apologise if I spoil anything related to tone here. I won’t give story stuff away! But the first half of the movie is very serious. It deals with unwelcome people pushing themselves into the lives of our young couple. The first were the thugs who broke into their home in England and assaulted them. The second are the builders they hire for their new home. Lead by Colm Meaney as Daddy Whelan. He’s the head of his family and beats the hell out of his kids. All of whom are absolute ‘scrotes’.
This half of the movie is certainly more of a standard thriller, with a few bits that warn us about what’s to come. Like a superstitious neighbour who tells the couple they have to leave out food at night for the Red Caps. Think leprechaun meets goblin trolls.
Of course they forget and all hell breaks lose. I was not expecting to suddenly be laughing so much though. The entire cinema’s vibe went from one of tense foreboding, to hilarity. You see, this movie is like Dust Till Dawn. It seems normal, then bam! You’re laughing your head off as these goblin things cause hell.
As I mentioned though, trauma is a big theme in the film. With a range of characters experiencing it in a different ways. Jamie had his head kicked in and is now suffering major anger issues. But he’s also absolutely impotent when it comes to fighting back. Maya, on the other hand, learns quickly that she needs to change in order to keep the family safe. And she certainly does that.
Unwelcome may dip into the absurd in it’s second half, but it’s done so with skill. It’s both funny as hell, and very unsettling. You are rewarded with scenes of carnage that will remind you of the Gremlins, and it works so damn well.
Some great performances from the leads and a riveting story will entertain you for its duration. Go watch it!
I give Unwelcome a welcome