say a friend will help you move, but a real friend will help you move a body. In
that case, Lauren Lee has three real friends. Twenty years after her husband’s “mysterious
disappearance,” the four women hold a séance to exorcise his spirit, but the ceremony will expose a lot of messy secrets in Quentin Lee’s The Unbidden (trailer here), which screens as
part of this year’s San Diego Asian Film Festival.
four friends should well complement each other when it comes to spirit
rousting. Lee is a successful mystery novelist, Rachel is a medium (or
whatever), Kat is a doctor (plastic surgeon, but it still counts), and Anna was
a tiger-mother before the term was stereotyped in the media. Jake was a bad
husband, but not always. Initially, it looked like he and Lee would be happy
together, until his bottled-up demons reasserted themselves. He really forced
Lee to supply the killing he was asking for, but the circumstances were awkward.
That is where Lee’s friends came in.
course, Jake’s spirit has been restless ever since. As the fateful date
approaches (fittingly Halloween), the hauntings have dramatically increased in
their invasiveness, taking a pronounced toll on Lee’s mental state. Unfortunately,
the ritual will be interrupted by a mysterious stranger, who has a personal stake
in their drama.
ready for a barrage of revelations and recriminations. Unbidden is one of the least gory horror films you will see all
year, but the fab four still draw plenty of blood. Being such close friends,
they know exactly where to slip the knives in. In many ways, Unbidden represents the road too often
not taken when it comes to horror films. This is a character-driven,
dialogue-rich film featuring an overwhelmingly female cast, covering the full
are also some reasonably clever twists down the stretch, but for many the 1980s
nostalgia will be the real attraction. Notably, Unbidden stars fan-favorite Tamlyn Tomita (Karate Kid II) as Lee and co-stars Julia Nickson (freedom fighter
Co Bao in Rambo: First Blood Part II,
one of three women to exchange dialogue with Stallone throughout the entire
franchise) as the boozy and cynical Dr. Kat.
is terrific as the literally haunted and guilt-ridden Lee. It is also pretty
remarkable how well her performance meshes with that of Michelle Krusiec as the
flashback Lee. Nickson and Elizabeth Sung both have great fun chewing the
scenery as the contemporary Kat and Anna, while Akemi Look vamps it up something
fierce as flashback Kat. As Jake (flashbacks only for him), former champion
kickboxer Jason Yee vividly conveys a sense of sexualized danger and
Unbidden is a great ensemble piece.
Quentin Lee’s handle on horror movie mechanics is just okay, but he gets some wonderfully
acid-tongued exchanges from the first class cast. Recommended for supernatural
horror fans with a mature sensibility, The
Unbidden screens tomorrow (11/4), during the 2016 SDAFF.
Labels: Horror Movies, Julia Nickson, Michelle Krusiec, SDAFF '16, Tamlyn Tomita