It’s the 4th of July and what better way to celebrate than to review a Canadian film.
Saying Bob’s life sucks is a bit of an understatement. His wife has left him for another woman, he hasn’t seen his kid in years and he has been working the same shitty job at the lumber mill going on eight years now. A job where he stares longingly at the wood chipper, contemplating making a swan dive into the blades like a scene from Fargo.
Oh, and he’s also slowly disappearing.
One of my favorite graphic novels is one called The Nobody. A small story about an invisible man coming to a small town, trying to cure his affliction. I always thought it would make for a fantastic film, and now after seeing Unseen, it got me thinking why they don’t produce more invisible man movies anymore.
Back in the yearly 2000’s we had Hollow Man with Kevin Bacon, even getting a sequel a few years later with Christian Slater. Even Chevy Chase did an invisible man movie called Memoirs of an Invisible Man, directed by John Carpenter. And who can forget the 1996 classic Invisible Mom.
The thing Unseen does differently than any other invisible man story that I’ve run across is the process in which he becomes invisible. He seems to almost be decaying, it’s a pretty ghastly sight once he completely reveals himself. And it isn’t instantaneous like most films would do the transformation. It’s a slow, painful process, like something you’d see in a zombie film. Becoming invisible for Bob leaves him in excruciating agony. Like any visit to Taco Bell.
Hollow Man dealt with the fact of never being able to blink, which sucks for sure. But Bob seems to be in so much pain once a piece of him vanishes, it’s like a piece of him is getting sliced off.
I acted like a baby recently because I dropped a heavy weight on my pinky finger. Just imagine what he must be going through. And thankfully we got an actor like Aden Young, who can properly portray this to the audience.
If anyone has watched his series Rectify, you know he’s good at playing these types of characters. Introverted, maybe slightly disturbed characters that have no idea how to fit in.
Just imagine how closed off you’d be if you found yourself slowly becoming invisible in grotesque layers.
You find out the reason Bob left his family, wasn’t because his wife was gay, though that might have something to do with it, but he left because the vanishing process was kicking in. He felt it would be better for his family that he no longer be in their lives.
Unfortunately, the same affliction is also plaguing his teen daughter.
Seeing the end in sight for Bob, he goes to his drug dealer who he seems to frequent a lot lately to help deal with the pain of his flesh vanishing, and does a job for the druggy in charge named Crisby.
Crisby has a pretty good thing going on in this small town. He sells black bear hearts to a Chinese herbal shop in the city. The city Bob is heading to. He might as well drop by and deliver a package for him. He gets roped into this scheme once he suffers from one of his invisible attacks, driving his car off the road.
With no one to call, he calls his drug dealer, who in return calls Crisby. To get Bob’s truck fixed, he has to run a little errand.
When Bob gets in town, his daughter Eva doesn’t really want anything to do with him. Though she is interested in her grandfather who died at an insane asylum when Bob was just a young boy.
Another thing that I liked about the film was that the invisibility that plagues this family is genetic, it isn’t because of some experiment gone wrong or getting exposed to some strange chemical. It’s just something that runs in his family.
When you first meet Bob, the process has already eaten away at his fingers, head and torso. There was this really cool reveal early on showing the light from the tv he is watching shine through his t-shirt. No wonder this guy is miserable. This also made me ponder, is your poop invisible?
Eva and a few of her friends decide to check out this insane asylum, the same asylum her grandfather supposedly died in. They say the asylum is abandoned but clearly there are still people working there. Maybe they meant a section of the asylum is shutdown… I don’t know.
They kept talking about going to visit an abandoned insane asylum yet the place still has nurses and a secretary at the entrance, so…
But shortly after their visit to the asylum, Eva doesn’t return home.
Bob has already handed off his package, receiving what he thinks are pills for the payment. Now I will say one thing about the plot that didn’t gel will with me was this whole drug dealing subplot. It seemed unnecessary and when you find out that Eva’s disappearance is also somehow connected to this drug racket… it’s too much of a coincidence for me to buy.
I’m not really sure why they tried connecting these stories that really shouldn’t be connected.
If they wanted to leave in this whole drug racket subplot, just make it this other thing Bob is having to deal with, eventually making it something he’ll have to face after the main plot of this story is wrapped up. Which is exactly what they do, yet they still found it necessary to try and connect Eva’s kidnapping with it.
Crisby sells black bear hearts to a third party, they give him drugs in return, and then they sell the bear hearts to a Chinese herbal shop. I’m sure it has some bullshit health benefits, most likely erection related.
Eva goes to them, hopefully looking for a remedy to help her case of invisibility.
The doctor working there kidnaps her and experiments on her.
We are first led to believe that the hospital was keeping her captive, as we learn that Bob’s father is still alive, living in the basement but now fully invisible.
The hospital was keeping him there to experiment on until he escaped. So I guess for how many years he was just living in the basement? He escaped his room to only live in the hospital basement?
Eventually Bob connects the two when he finds Eva’s bag, finding the pain medicine in the same package he got when he delivered the bear heart.
Bob broke some ribs when he wrecked his truck and needed some pain meds to deal with it. This included another really cool scene where Bob can see through his chest, looking at his broken rib through his invisible skin. One thing this film does right is the invisibility. It looks so cool and is done so well. For a film with a smaller budget like this, it’s even more impressive.
After Bob beats the shit out of the Chinese black market dealers, he frees his daughter, but gets stabbed in the process.
His wife patches him up but he’s still suffering from his progressing invisibility. Suffering the same thing, Eva goes with her dad, both planning on just vanishing together I assume.
Bob drops off his package but the dealers ripped him off, giving him a package full of nuts and bolts instead of pills. Which should have been noticeable, right? I mean, I don’t care how many pills you have squeezed into a single package, I doubt the weight compares to the heaviness of metal bolts.
Anyway, feeling cheated, Crisby goes to find Bob and make him pay for ruining his business.
But instead of finding Bob, he runs into his daughter Eva.
By this time Bob has gone full invisible man, he even paid a visit to the old wood chipper. But he decides against wood chipping himself, returning home just in time to stop Crisby before he can hurt Eva.
Now on the run, the two plan on returning to the insane asylum, rescuing Bob’s dad and Eva’s grandfather.
All in all, I enjoyed Unseen. I took issue with the drug dealing subplot however, feeling it got in the way of the main story, which is Eva’s disappearance. There’s a lot going on here that isn’t touched on. Like the fact Bob had this promising hockey career but had to leave it behind once his invisibility started kicking in.
I didn’t fully get the drug dealing aspect of the film either. I can’t remember what the in between party did, I think auto shop or repair shop, but how’d they get mixed up in selling black bear hearts to a Chinese herbal shop? And how’d a Chinese herbal shop paying them in pills? Are they medicinal pills? I doubt a drug dealer would bother selling herbal pills to people.
It seems like the more interesting stuff, like Bob’s father was all shoved to the side, like they focused on the wrong things. I love the idea of this man slowly going invisible while trying to find his missing daughter. The irony in that is palpable. But I also wouldn’t mind more time dealing with Bob’s wife, as she was kind of a mystery. So was her partner, who instantly has a dislike for Bob.
I’d give the film a RENT IT rating, as I have no idea right now how you can see it. This came out in Canada back in 2016 I believe but is just now making its way to the US. As of right now it might just be hitting film festivals but I’m sure it should be hitting on demand or streaming services soon. When it does it might be worth checking out.
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