The Unheard (2023) Movie Review – A predictable but imaginative mystery-chiller

A predictable but imaginative mystery-chiller

Sitting alongside other horror movies featuring hearing-impaired protagonists, such as Hush and A Quiet Place, comes The Unheard, a new title streaming on Shudder from The Beach House director, Jeffrey. A Brown.

The movie tells the story of a young woman named Chloe (Lachlan Watson) who lost her hearing at the age of 8 after falling into a meningitis-inflicted coma that lasted for several months. Curiously, she didn’t only lose her ability to hear. While she was unconscious, she also lost her mother, who mysteriously went missing from the Northeastern town of her childhood.

Where did her mother go? The clues to her disappearance can be found in the videotapes that Chloe finds when she returns to her old home for a short stay. She is back in town for experimental surgery to restore her hearing. But it’s the broken memories of her mom that are also restored when she examines the crackly footage on the home movies that have long been hidden away.

Chloe’s first day back is one fraught with difficulty as the house, which has been standing vacant for quite a while, is in need of repair. Luckily, her dad, who is some distance away, is able to get into contact with his old friend Hank (Nick Sandow), the town’s harbourmaster who is able to offer his services as a handyman. Of course, Chloe doesn’t hear Hank when he arrives at the door, but after a few awkward moments, she realizes his presence and communicates with him using the transcription software that has been installed on her phone.

Soon after this visit, Chloe begins to hear things. This is great news, right? On the surface, yes, as it would appear her operation has been a success. However, with her newfound ability to hear comes consequences, as she can also pick up high-pitched frequencies that her doctor passes off as auditory hallucinations.

According to the doc, the startling sounds Chloe hears are perfectly normal but as she can also hear her mom’s voice within these distorted soundwaves, it’s clear that something strange is happening to the frightened young woman. Is her memory playing tricks on her? Or is something (or someone) residing in the house with her? We aren’t telling!

Screenwriters Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen weave several plot threads into one within the movie. The first is related to the consequences of the experimental surgery that Chloe has undergone. The second is related to her mother’s disappearance. And the third is related to a serial killer that is at loose in the small town. It’s not too difficult to see how these plot strands connect but we aren’t going to join the dots for you in this review.

The identity of the killer isn’t revealed until the end of the movie but as there aren’t too many suspects to pick from, it’s not difficult to guess who it might be.

Could it be handyman Hank, the dodgy-looking fella who might have more than a screwdriver in his toolbelt? Or could it be Joshua (Brendan Meyer), the strange boy living next door who (according to Hank) is the reason why animals keep disappearing from the town? Or is it somebody else besides? We aren’t going to reveal the movie’s ‘big’ twist but if you’re able to unmask the villains on old Scooby-Doo cartoons, you will have little trouble working things out here.

With a two-hour-plus running time, the movie threatens to overstay its welcome. It’s rarely suspenseful, despite there being a killer on the loose, and the story is a bit of a jumble. At times, it resembles a ghost movie, complete with static on a TV screen that brings to mind Carol Anne’s plight in Poltergeist, and at other times it’s a story about the deaf experience and how people like Chloe manage to handle the difficulties associated with their disability. Then there’s the serial killer subplot that is barely touched upon until nearer the end of the movie when Chloe finally comes face to face with the person who has been brutally killing and stringing up local women.

These plot threads do come together but not necessarily in a satisfying way. However, the movie remains watchable, despite the flaws in the writing, due to the strong performances by the cast, most notably Watson, who convinces as the traumatized young woman at the center of the story.

Also worthy of mention is the sound design by Colin Alexander. He draws us into Chloe’s world, firstly by muting the voices of the people around her and then, when she gains the ability to hear, by pulling us into the agonizing pain she experiences when we are forced to listen to the oppressive whistles and squeals from the high-volume frequencies that she taps into. The sound design ups the creep factor quite significantly so while the movie isn’t that scary, it still manages to unnerve due to the disorientating noises within the soundtrack.

The movie’s visuals also get under the skin during moments when distorted, scratchy images related to Chloe’s past play out on the screen. Sometimes, these come from the VHS tapes that she plays on her TV set, and at other times, they are forced into her imagination by the mind-altering sounds that she is forced to listen to. So, while the story is predictable and occasionally confusing, the movie still manages to grab the attention due to the hallucinatory sound and visual effects that needle and trouble the senses.

As such, The Unheard isn’t a movie that is best left unseen! Despite the generic title and formulaic plot, it is still a decent watch, even if a few minutes could have been shaved off the overlong running time. The pets in your home won’t enjoy it (my cat didn’t appreciate the screeching soundtrack) but you might enjoy the creativity that is on display if you can endure the sensory overload!


Read More: The Unheard Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 6/10

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