Release Date – 27th January 2023, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 44 minutes, Director – Jon Wright
After surviving an attack in their London flat expecting-couple Maya (Hannah John-Kamen) and Jamie (Douglas Booth) hope for a life of peace, as long as they can keep the goblin-like Redcaps away.
Unwelcome’s marketing, and opening act, spend a large deal of time building up the mythical Redcaps. A set of rarely-seen goblin-like creatures who are kept at bay with blood offerings left at the bottom of the garden each night. When the homeowner dies it’s up to her nephew and niece-in-law to take on the duties that comes with the house. It’s just a small thing for expecting-couple Jamie (Douglas Booth) and Maya (Hannah John-Kamen) to deal with for a life of peace, after surviving an attack in their London flat. Yet, the biggest issues they have to put up with come in the repairs needed to their new home. Aside from the fact that they need cupboards and furniture put in place there’s a hole in the roof looking straight into the bedroom that needs fixing.
And so the Redcaps are moved aside in favour of the Whelan family, the only builders nearby who are free to do something at such short notice. It’s clear to see why when they present themselves in such a confrontational, and at times plain strange, manner – particularly towards Jamie. Yet, the oddest, and most undeniably creepy, behaviour is that of father Colm (Colm Meaney) who continuously insists to Maya that he be called Daddy – “everyone calls me Daddy”. There’s a genuine wince every time the word is said, and likely not quite in the way that the film intends. It simply comes across as off-putting and creepy.
However, despite all the interactions that occur with the Whelans and the escalating tensions depicted on screen there’s no real tension felt at any point. In fact, there’s almost no tension from any of the strands that the film depicts. The biggest response is more despair at how many times it resorts to simply trying to kick and bring down the pregnant woman at the centre. Moment that try to layer threat and attacks for extra effect never quite work partly because the layering itself never quite comes together and also because it simply feels like the pregnancy is being used once again as another factor for you to care/ feel unpresent tension.
As the film goes on, and particularly during the third act, the question comes to mind as to whether this is meant to be a horror-comedy. There are certainly comedic beats here and there, however it’s never sure whether during the darker elements of the drawn-out final stages we’re meant to find humour. And largely this isn’t down to the presence of the Redcaps themselves, finally properly entering the piece rather late in the day – eventually leading to an even more extended ending which simply leaves you tired. The humour, if there’s meant to be any, never properly comes through and things simply seem quite stupid. Maybe if it had a more solid tone and style there might be something more enjoyable here.
Unwelcome never quite manages to find its footing as it walks through its strands with little tension or effect, simply seeming to just keep kicking its protagonists leading to an overall drawn out feeling.