It’s a tale as old as time – mysterious, powerful box shows up and brings chaos to the lives of everyone that comes in contact with it. “Seven” had a box, “Wish Upon” had a music box, and a chapter of “XX” was called “The Box.” Heck, there was even a feature film called “The Box.”
Levy Tran & Lance Henriksen in “The Unwilling.” (Photo courtesy of Vision Films)
There’s a reason filmmakers and studios keep going back to the well … because it’s creepy when inanimate objects have the power of destruction. And each of those films successfully pulled off the “what horrors lie within” vibes to varying degrees.
I’m not sure the same can be said about the latest entry into the spooky box area, “The Unwilling.”
David Harris (David Lipper) is an OCD-afflicted agoraphobic engineer who is confined (alone) to his remote country home. His solitude comes to an end when his family descend upon his home for the reading of his father’s (Lance Henriksen) will.
Joining the party is his sister, Michelle (Dina Meyer); her ex-husband, Rich (Robert Russler), and his new fiancée, Cheryl (Bree Williamson); and (what I assume are cousins) Kelly (Austin Highsmith) and Darren (Jake Thomas).
While waiting for old man Harris’ lawyer to show up, the aforementioned mysterious, powerful box shows up on the steps. As the group investigates further, strange things start happening and an evil plan comes to light and each is forced to look at their own shortcomings.
The only thing I found interesting about the actual movie was the box. Its appearance was more ornate and interesting than its “evil box” counterparts. The fact that at times it seems to be a living, breathing organism of its own seemed sort of novel. Then the novelty just sort of disappeared … along with my interest.
A mysterious box contains as many questions as it does answers in “The Unwilling.” (Photo courtesy of Vision Films)
More often than, Lipper and co-writer (and director) Jonathan Heap seemed to have ambitions greater than their subject matter allowed. It’s full of cliché and symbolism that falls flat due to subpar acting, cheesy (even for horror) dialogue, and laughably bad effects.
More interesting than the actual movie is the pedigree and experience of its cast and crew.
David Lipper as the reclusive David Harris in “The Unwilling.” (Photo courtesy of Vision Films)
Lipper has an extensive TV resume and might be best known as Viper from “Full House;” Thomas played Hilary Duff’s younger brother on “Lizzie McGuire;” Meyer had sizeable roles in “Starship Troopers” and “Saw;” and Henricksen has more than 200 acting credits ranging from “Aliens” to “Ryan’s Hope” and “The Blacklist.”
On top op that, Heap is an Academy Award-nominated director for the 1991 Live Action Short “12:01 PM.”
Unfortunately, those successes don’t translate well – if at all – to “The Unwilling.”
If you’re a genre fan and horror is your genre of choice, it might hit some notes you can appreciate. For the general public, however, “The Unwilling” might refer to their continued viewing after 20 minutes.
★ of ★★★★★