Directed by Jon Wright and co-written by Mark Stay, Irish folk horror UNWELCOME has you on edge from the beginning. A fresh start for Maya, Jaime, and their baby on the way, comes with a caveat; their newly inherited country house has a beautiful garden that backs up against the woods and a promised nightly offering to keep the Red Caps at bay. Not upholding tradition with the little people beyond the wall could be a huge mistake.
Colm Meaney is the abusive Daddy Whelan, heading up the unsavory local family fixing the cottage. Proud and fiery, he is just as volatile as his children. Jaime-Lee O’Donnell and Chris Walley make the aggressive audience relentlessly uncomfortable with their behavior and nationalist words. Kristian Nairn plays Eoin, the quiet, clearly complicated, deemed “simple” son of the Whelan crew. Nairn gives a brilliant performance, more complex than at first glance.
Douglas Booth wears his emotions on his sleeve as Jaime. He is charming and kind but channels his unresolved trauma into simmering anger and anxiety. Hannah John-Kamen is enchanting and vulnerable. She owns the screen in her self-assured presence. Her chemistry with Booth and the rest of the cast keeps you watching.
The script is a dark adult version of a Grimm’s fairytale. Costumes are as colorful as the scenery is lush. Gorgeous drone shots down windy roads are breathtaking. The score creeps up on you. The first appearance of the elusive creatures is reminiscent of 80s Jim Henson; think Hoggle and the goblins from Labyrinth. They are awesome in the truest sense of the word. As a person who has been pregnant twice, the violence in the film is visceral. The commitment from the cast is applause-worthy. As the impressive practical effects get more intense, so do their performances. You will find yourself wincing and giggling simultaneously. Yes, it is over the top. And yes, the ending is a real WTF. Just go with it and have fun because in UNWELCOME, keeping the tradition alive keeps you alive.
UNWELCOME is set to be out in theaters this FRIDAY, MARCH 10th
as it’s part of the AMC Thrills & Chills lineup,
and on Digital Tuesday, March 14th!