Unrest (2006)

Unrest (click for larger image)Starring Corri English, Scot Davis, Joshua Alba, Jay Jablonski

Directed by Jason Todd Ipson

Distributed by After Dark Films and Lionsgate Home Entertainment

I have to admit, despite my interview with director Ipson recently (listen to it here), Unrest was still the one movie of this whole fest that I was very much on the fence about. I’m happy to report the fence can be done away with and that Ipson’s definitely a director to keep your eyeballs on.

The story involves a group of four med school students who we meet on their first day of Gross Anatomy class. For those not in the know, Gross Anatomy students are split into groups and assigned a cadaver to dissect throughout their time there. The goal is twofold; they have to learn first hand how the human body is put together and it gets them used to dealing with bodies. Of course trying to figure out where the body came from, its history, or how it got there is very much discouraged.

Unfortunately for our main character, Alison (English) that’s not really possible. As soon as she sees the cadaver assigned to their group, a young woman covered in self-inflicted wounds, she begins to have feelings that something’s not right with it. One of the refreshing things about Ipson’s handling of these “feelings” is that he doesn’t over-explain it or give any solid backstory for her (though one was planned), but rather she explains it to therapist after things start going very badly. I wouldn’t say it’s glossed over, per se, but it’s not given an overdramatic amount of attention.

Unrest review (click to see it bigger!)Sure enough her feelings turn out to be very much accurate; everyone who comes into contact with the cadaver, whom they nickname Norma, starts to meet exceedingly nasty ends. Alison becomes more and more obsessed with finding out Norma’s history, which is no easy task as all cadavers are shipped from at least 500 miles away and don’t have known families to claim them.

With the help of fellow student/love interest Brian (Davis), Alison is able to peel the many layers back of where this corpse came from and why it’s soul is nowhere near a state of rest and the truth she eventually uncovers is another refreshing aspect of Unrest. When you see it there’s a good chance you’re going to be theorizing left and right about what’s going on but I seriously doubt you’ll be able to figure it out before Ipson is ready to tell you.

Any director who came come into our genre and attempts to make something anywhere near original deserves our respect and I came out of Unrest with a great admiration for what Ipson brought to what could have easily just been another generic “medical thriller”. The main reason it works so well has a lot to do with the fact that Ipson actually attended medical school and everything in the way the movie is handled is based in reality. That means there’s no shying away from frank depiction of dead bodies on screen, which is helped immensely by fantastic practical effects thanks to the folks at Optic Nerve. Those of you who get queasy looking at real (well, realistic) dead bodies being cut open should prepare yourself for some nasty looking stuff when you sit down with Unrest.

Unrest review (click to see it bigger!The score is something else you won’t likely forget, both because it’s interesting and original, but also because it gets to be incredibly overbearing towards the end. A combination of traditional score and tribal chanting (I dare you not to think of Temple of Doom), the music becomes too overbearing during the more dramatic moments, and indeed Ipson seemed to rely on it a little too much to build a sense of dread.

Though the film is not without others issues, I have to say they’re few and far between. The love interest angle is handled intelligently and maturely but it felt a tad unnecessary other than to give more depth to the characters. The ending did detract somewhat from what had come before; the resolution came about too quickly for my tastes and it all seemed a little too easy, but these are just minor complaints when put up against the film as a whole.

The bottom line is you’ve probably not seen anything quite like Unrest before and that’s something we here at Dread Central can always get behind. It’s not too late to see the movie for yourself if your local theater is replaying it again Monday or Tuesday, so be sure to check it out if you can.

4 out of 5

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Johnny Butane