Gemma Shields (Jasmine Hyde) is a reader of talking books, and has a talent for conveying the best in the author's intentions, so gives library and bookshop readings as well, of both modern and classic texts. She is more content than she has ever been, with her well-looked after home, her loving husband Will (Richard Flood), and their young son Joel who they both dote over, but one evening after she took a dip in their indoor swimming pool, tragedy struck. After a bath she was alerted by Will that the boy had gone missing, and a panicked search of that lavish house ensued, only to be brought to an abrupt end when they discovered the body in the pool, drowned. But worse is to come...
Writer and director Gary Sinyor had made his career in comedy up until the point when he released The Unseen, but just as comedians make surprisingly decent villains in thrillers or suspense drama, he turned his hand to material that proved more effective than some of his humorous efforts had done. It didn't set the world on fire, but he justifiably had faith in his project and as a result it was his highest profile movie in some time, largely thanks to him publicly criticising Disney for attempting to force smaller pieces like this off the cinema screens simply so their latest Star Wars instalment could boast one of the largest opening weekends in history, and he had a point there.
A neat sense of tradition was contained within The Unseen, as it harked back to a form of thriller the British film industry used to churn out with regularity, fair enough those productions were subsidised quite often, but for every few "will this do?" items shot in a couple of corners, there was a gem to be seen, be it a B-movie that had welcome ideas above its station or a lower budget A-movie that found an audience who, without many expectations, thoroughly enjoyed what they filmmakers had delivered. These tended to peter out come the nineteen-seventies as the form reverted to television, but here was a reminder of how impressive a modest yarn could be when given the classy treatment.
It was a story that began as a drama of bereavement, changed into a supernaturally imbued chiller, then made up its mind with its last act twist to be a straight-ahead thriller where technology played a part, yet did not jar with the rural surroundings the Shields had settled in. They were in this holiday home because of a chance meeting, an opportunity to get away from it all for a well-earned rest especially since Gemma's latest job reading the Psalms has given her what appears to be a form of psychosis, believing that her dead son is trying to communicate with her from beyond the grave. And it's not solely her: Will is struggling with his grief as well, and as they are having trouble admitting just how badly they are feeling to one another, that chic home has become a pressure cooker environment.
Then it gets worse when Gemma suffers hysterical blindness as a reaction to her loss and wanders out into the road to be rescued by a passing Good Samaritan, Paul Dietch (Simon Cotton), who escorts her to the hospital. Will is called from work, and a diagnosis is settled on, a genuine medical condition that handily, just like Madeleine Stowe in forgotten (and silly) thriller Blink, erupts at the most inopportune times. Sinyor managed a tone of seriousness that was anything but silly, however, at least until his big reveal which was in truth a farfetched explanation of what was actually going on, yet thankfully saved from unintentional farce by the gravity of the situation and how sympathetic we were made to feel for the characters, Gemma in particular. With a savvy use of attractive locations (it's Paul who offers the couple a place at his holiday home) and a more middle-class mood than a national cinema that either concentrated on the very rich or the very poor by this era, The Unseen was different enough, while reassuringly a descendent of the reliables that had gone before, to be a limited but satisfying experience. Music by Jim Barne.