Tuesday, 14 December 2021

The Unhealer (2020) - Horror Film Review

The Unhealer
felt to me like a modern day retelling of Carrie, but with a boy rather than a girl as the tragic protagonist, as well as a kind of dark superhero vibe in the vein of Chronicle. This was directed by Martin Guigui and co-written by Kevin E. Moore and J. Shawn Harris, while an enjoyable enough film, it was let down by a town populated by characters who all react extremely unrealistically to death.

The film opens with Pflueger, a charlatan (Lance Henriksen - Near Dark, Aliens) stealing a strange power from a Native American gravesite. With his new found power he plans to use his faith healing to actually heal people rather than pretend, the less than noble reason being so he can get rich. He is warned against using the power by Red Elk (Branscombe Richmond - The Scorpion King), who implores him to return it, but Pflueger pays him no heed. The town's most bullied teenager, Kelly (Elijah Nelson) is having an awful time meanwhile, the many school bullies torment him endlessly, resulting in him having a multitude of psychiatric problems such as an eating disorder. His mother,  Bernice (Natasha Henstridge - Species) hires Pflueger in hopes of curing these problems, the man is successful but at the cost of his own life. Now Kelly finds that he has inherited the power and soon discovers he is unable to come to any harm, any violence inflicted on him is returned back to the person who caused it. This new ability of his is at first seen as a good thing by him, his mum and his love interest Dominique (Kayla Carlson), but the old adage of 'absolute power corrupts absolutely' starts to come true with Kelly determined to get his revenge on those who have caused him pain in the past.

It was a delight to see Henriksen in this, at first I assumed he was going to be the antagonist so it was a shock to see him killed off very early into the film's first act. The mantle then passes to Kelly as the central character but his descent passes slowly. To be fair, sure he does some terrible things, but most of what actually occurs with him and the bodycount he slowly racks up is all down to the scum that seem to be the majority of the population of the town the film takes place in. If it wasn't for Kelly's accidental power he would have been killed several times over by the film's conclusion down to no fault of his own. The bullies of The Unhealer are so over the top. On the surface they are the typical meathead jocks, but they appear to have no remorse at all whenever one of them dies. This concept is often used in movies, after all if characters behaved realistically to loss then nothing would ever get done, they would sit around moping. Here though it is dialed all the way up. There was a scene towards the end of the second act when someone has died, the characters friends act so unconcerned about this that until the character is shown being put in a bodybag I had assumed that maybe he hadn't been killed after all. This is the same for nearly every death and mutilation that occurs, no one seems to care at all which gives everything a weird feel.

Due to Kelly not being able to take damage it leads to lots and lots of nice scenes, with plenty of inventive death scenes. An early highlight was when Kelly is run over, the damage reflected back onto the person driving the car. This ramps up more and more as the story progresses, there is a large bodycount to be found even if technically most of these deaths are self inflicted. The kills mostly look great, CG is used to show the healing ability of Kelly, but other than that the special effects are practical a lot of time, and when CG is used it wasn't that distracting. The story was predictable, as I said in my prologue this is basically Carrie, so I had a good idea where it would be heading. It did start to lose focus a bit in the third act with maybe a few scenes that while good, might have helped the flow if they had been removed.

Ignoring the bizarrely heartless townsfolk, and a cringe inducing moment in which Kelly accidentally causes two classmates around him to share his 'blue' daydream this wasn't bad. I liked Kelly enough that I wanted him to come out on top, while the bullies at least certainly deserved their comeuppance. Helped by some mostly decent special effects this was a fun, if a slightly forgettable teen horror to watch. The Unhealer is available nationwide on AVOD and SVOD, as well as Blu-ray, Digital HD and Cable VOD.


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