Next to jump-scares, the “silence followed by sudden noise” trick is the laziest way for a horror film to jar an audience when it doesn’t have anything else to offer. Writer-director Sheldon Wilson’s “The Unspoken” has so much plot that it really shouldn’t need to rely as much as it does on big, loud sounds. After a while, the assaultive music becomes a tip-off that the movie’s not working.
Jodelle Ferland stars as Angela, an underprivileged small-town teenage outcast who takes a job babysitting Adrian (Sunny Suljic), the mute 9-year-old son of a single mother who’s just moved to town. The problem? Angela’s employer lives in a purportedly haunted house, where another family mysteriously disappeared two decades ago.
There’s more filling out “The Unspoken,” including local bullies who’ve been stashing their drugs in the previously abandoned house; and a local lawman (played by Neal McDonough) who may know more about the history of strange goings-on in town than he’s willing to say.
Ferland’s a terrific young actress, but even she seems totally lost in a film that has too many villains and too much tangled backstory.
So in the absence of a coherent narrative, “The Unspoken” brings the boom. Every few minutes, a character turns a corner or walks into a room and WHAM-O!, the soundtrack goes nuts for a second or two. This movie’s about as scary as a jackhammer.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood