The Unlit (2021) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Unlit (2021) Review

Horrorific content by christina on November 05th, 2021 | Movie Review | Supernatural, Wilderness, Witchcraft, Dangerous Exploration

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When Claire returns to her hometown, she discovers her former home riddled with terrifying witchcraft, the town in the grip of fear, decay, and madness.

No horror watch list can really be considered complete until it includes at least one witch film, and Kate Whitbread’s The Unlit certainly looks promising at first glance. It’s female-forward and comes attached to a beautifully lush look, so it certainly appears to have everything a horror fan looks for in a good witch flick. But does it follow through well enough to be worth your time this spooky season? The Unlit (also known as Witches of Blackwood) stars Cassandra Magrath (from Wolf Creek), John Voce, Nicholas Denton, Francesca Walters, and others.

She is the Daughter of Darkness

The Unlit Review

At the center of the storyline is Claire Nash (Magrath). Claire is a cop who winds up on extended leave after her implication in a teenage girl’s suicide. However, the leave turns out to have come at a good time for her, as she also soon receives news of her father’s death. Claire travels back to her small country hometown to take care of business, but it quickly becomes apparent that things aren’t quite how she remembers them anymore.

For one thing, the town labors under a fog of decay and mounting fear. The air is also abuzz with rumors about a mysterious shadow roaming the town, out for blood. Then there’s the mystery surrounding the death of Claire’s father. Claire’s Uncle Cliff (Voce), formerly the head doctor at a now-defunct asylum where Claire’s mother Sarah (Walters) was once committed, clues her in to some rather untoward details.

The rest of the film follows Claire as she continues to try to unpack the mysteries around her. What actually happened to her father, and what were the actual circumstances surrounding Sarah’s commitment? And, for that matter, what’s really going on in the sleepy little town Claire once called home? (There’s witchcraft involved, of course.)

The Unlit delivers on what promises to be an appropriately rich film visually thanks to incredible cinematography by Paul Hughes. The fantastic use of light and shadow ensures Claire’s hometown feels suitably mysterious. Hughes also manages to make the town feel cold, not to mention downright off-putting. It’s clear right from the get-go that something isn’t right here, and you can’t help but want to find out what that something is.

It’s pretty clear that a lot of thought went into creating the look and feel of this film. However, the less-than-impressive script by Darren Markey disappoints on several levels, failing miserably to live up to the promises made by the visuals. One would expect the writing to focus a fair amount on Claire and her history with this town, but it still manages to overdo it. There’s too much focus on less impressive elements of Claire’s backstory and not enough on some of the more intriguing ideas presented as The Unlit unfolds. For instance, there are all these stories about the untoward goings-on in the town that you really want to see fleshed out more.

And, of course, if you sign up for a witchcraft horror movie, you’ll want to see a fair amount of focus on the witchcraft elements. However, there isn’t nearly enough of that, so you’re very much left wanting more. This is especially the case when the ending winds up feeling formulaic, as well, retreading a lot of old ground horror fans have seen many times before.

Worth Watching?

The Unlit certainly has its intriguing points, and it’s obvious a lot of effort went into it, so it’s far from a bad film. But there’s a lot about it that might leave the average witch fan feeling let down. That said, this is worth seeing, but you should go into it prepared for certain aspects of the storytelling to drag and even fall apart a little. But if you can excuse the problems with the script, you may really like this, especially if you like witchcraft horror movies.

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