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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor  [April 4, 2017]






[]  The Unwilling opens with the death of Mr. Harris (Lance Henriksen) in a nursing home. It's a strangely supernatural death, involving shocking make-up effects, which also seems to take the life of his nurse.

Thereafter, six people gather in son David's (David Lipper) house for the reading of Harris's will. (We never learn dad's first name.). Also attending are Harris's daughter, Michelle (Dina Meyer), her former husband, Rich (Robert Rusler), Rich's new squeeze, Cheryl (Bree Williamson), and Kelly and Darren (Austin Highsmith, Jake Thomas). I've seen this film twice and still can't figure how those two fit in, other than that they're together.

While they're waiting for the estate's lawyer to arrive, a box is left on their doorstep. It's a strange box, black and covered in strange carvings. Nobody knows who left it. The house is isolated and no car or person was spotted. Just a box on the doorstep.

Horror films are full of mysterious, magical boxes. The most famous is the Lemarchand puzzle box in the Hellraiser series. Lesser boxes include Le Vaudo Mort in Needle, and the box in the horror short film, Scream Machine. As in Needle, The Unwilling's puzzle box has needles. Six needles. Which spring out and prick Darren's finger.

Rich suggests that maybe the box contains the will, and the needles are "a sort of DNA test." They must prick their fingers to prove they are the legitimate heirs. Foolishly, they heed Rich's advice and prick their fingers on the remaining five needles.

This is all very silly. How would Harris have gotten everyone's DNA? Their actions also contradict the film's title. How are these characters "unwilling"? Quite the opposite. They willingly prick their fingers and pay the price.

Naturally, things turn ugly. Most (not all?) of the six people have "demons" plaguing them. Darren is a drug user. Rich is greedy. Michelle is vain. David has obsessive compulsive disorder. Even the late Harris used to abuse his children. These personal demons are significant, because the box "gives you what you want."

Kelly and Cheryl seem devoid of such demons, which oddly breaks the pattern, though it does not save them from torment. Sinister supernatural manifestations target them all. Possessions. Deaths. Evil mirrors. And occurrences stranger still. Sometimes it's hard not to laugh.





Despite its lack of logic, The Unwilling is great fun. A slick, well made horror film. Production values are strong across the board -- cinematography, sound design, special effects, and art direction. The cast are a group of professionals with extensive union credits among them.

The film does suffer from a lack of originality. There's nothing here that a hardcore horror film fan hasn't seen many times before. You have the puzzle box, the gathering of disparate people for a reading of a will, the resulting personality clashes, and a myriad of demonic, ghostly, supernatural, and extra-dimensional effects that we've all seen before.



Even so, the film is entertaining and fast-paced. It runs just under 80 minutes if you discount the credit roll, so it doesn't overstay its welcome. Indeed, it leaves no aftertaste. It's an enjoyable but forgettable experience. You pop it into your mouth, it's tasty, it goes down quick, then you forget you've just eaten.

The Unwilling is directed and co-written by Jonathan Heap, along with co-writer (and star) David Lipper.


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