“The Unborn” (citywide) is an efficient, scary sci-fi thriller from Roger Corman’s Concorde Films that adroitly exploits all those vague fears one has about the perils of genetic engineering. Writer Henry Dominic and debuting director Rodman Flender deftly establish Brooke Adams and Jeff Hayenga as a likable, attractive thirtysomething couple who live in a tastefully decorated craftsman cottage and are lacking only in a child to complete their happiness.
Having suffered miscarriages twice, Adams has given up hope of bearing a child until she’s referred to a reputed miracle doctor (James Karen). Adams’ joy at finding herself pregnant at last predictably turns into a nightmare.
The genetic engineering angle is the only fresh new wrinkle, what with women enduring weird pregnancies at least as far back as “Rosemary’s Baby,” but “The Unborn” is an example of solid, well-developed writing, sharp, briskly paced direction and smart performances. The film may be strictly a genre piece, but the irony is that it offers Adams her biggest and best screen role since her debut in “Days of Heaven.” Her wife and mother-to-be is an intelligent, thoroughly contemporary woman, a writer of children’s fiction, who must overcome a history of emotional instability to face up to a predicament so horrible as to defy comprehension. Adams sustains crucial sympathy and believability in this woman’s increasing terror.
“The Unborn” (rated R for language, standard horror film gore, some sex) is laudable adult entertainment on all counts except one: There is a gratuitous, sneering put-down of lesbians who are in turn ignorantly stereotyped as man-haters.
Brooke Adams Virginia Marshall
Jeff Hayenga Brad Marshall
James Karen Dr. Richard Meyerling
K. Callon Martha
A Concorde presentation. Producer-director Rodman Flender. Screenplay Henry Dominic. Cinematographer Wally Pfister. Editor Patrick Rand. Music Gary Numan & Mike Smith. Production design Gary Randall. Sound Michael Clark. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.
MPAA-rated R (for gore, violence, sensuality and some language).