Fantastic Fest Report: Unrest Review
A disturbing medical thriller, Unrest earns the considerable amount of tension it generates because it is grounded in frankly realistic characters and situations.
Despite a fair amount of explicit dissection footage, more die-hard horror fans may be disappointed by the many familiar tricks of the trade that have been borrowed from other movies, as well as the plot twists that come zooming in from out of left field.
As is so often the case, you either get on the train and enjoy the ride, or run alongside, complaining about being dragged where you don't want to go.
One of the more appealing aspects of Unrest is the performance of Corri English. Primarily known as a television actress (most recently in the canceled series The Bedford Diaries), here she portrays Alison Blanchard, a medical student.
She is very pretty, yes, but, more germane to the story, she is convincing as both a student and a skeptic. And she looks to be at least a foot shorter than everyone else. When a group of medical students walk into a morgue to begin their first class of Gross Anatomy (basically, dissection of corpses), she stands out because of her height. That helps contribute to a "me vs. everybody" vibe that begins when Alison suddenly passes out in class.
Alison insists to the class instructor, Dr. Blackwell (Derrick O'Connor), that she felt something emanating from the corpse, which is puzzling to her because, as an atheist, she is definitely not inclined to believe in such things.
As the strange feelings persist, Alison tries to find out where the body came from. She also deals with various degrees of doubt from her assigned study group: Rick (Jay Jablonski) dismisses her concerns out of hand, Brian (Scot Davis) is a bit of a believer yet is open to her concerns, and Carlos (Joshua Alba) has deep respect for dead bodies and is afraid that Alison does not.
Something bad happens when Rick and his fiancee are disrespectful to a corpse, fueling Alison's investigation and adding a hint of danger to the romantic feelings that develop between her and Brian.
By this point of the story, if you haven't developed empathy for the characters -- Alison's disbelief and confusion that the supernatural might be real, Brian's simultaneous attraction to and suspicion of her -- the plot turns ("Don't go in the bathroom again!" "The corpse is actually an ancient what?") may stretch belief.
But I was completely on-board, waiting to see how things would be resolved, and though the ending is a bit cheesy, it reminded me favorably of certain late 1970s US television movies.
The dissection scenes are presented in full-frontal glory, and are not for the squeamish. The film was shot on location in a morgue, making excellent use of a huge tank filled with liquid and kept behind locked cabinet doors.
Director Jason Todd Ipson co-wrote the script with Chris Billett. According to the IMDB, Ipson was "a General Surgery Resident in Boston training to be a Plastic Surgeon before resigning to attend USC's Peter Stark Producing Program."
In Unrest, the would-be Dr. Ipson has combined the two worlds in entertaining fashion.