The Unborn

Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
The Unborn Movie Poster Image
Possession tale is low on blood, but high on scares.
  • PG-13
  • 2009
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 32 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Extensive discussion of mystical and demonic elements of Christianity and Judaism. Several scenes are set in a home for the elderly, with discussion of the frailties that can come with age. Discussions of the Holocaust. Extensive imagery involving birth and pregnancy and its complications, including a fetus in a jar (which is later shattered). Discussions of Alzheimer's (referred to as "old-timers"), clinical depression, and genetic abnormalities.

Violence

Several scenes involve violence against -- or by -- children possessed by supernatural entities or supernatural entities in the form of children. Stabbings, bludgeonings, beatings, and other forms of violence. Some blood, though less than in many other horror films -- but there are many mutilated bodies, and some graphic images of contorted/dislocated limbs. Constant horror-film imagery, including swarms of insects, misshapen supernaturally influenced beings, howling monstrosities whose entire face is a fanged maw, and more. A child is hit by a car (though unharmed thanks to dark forces); later, the same child stabs a character to death. A plot point revolves around the death of an infant. The finale involves lots of supernatural violence -- people and objects being hurled about by psychic force -- and some violence committed by people possessed by that force. Characters are chased and threatened by scary monsters. Some World War II concentration camp imagery, including medical experiments on children; other medical imagery includes an eye examination.

Sex

A couple (young, but college-aged) kisses and cuddles, presumably after making love. Discussion of "wood" as a indicator of arousal. Some images of the female lead character in nightshirt and panties and a waist-up, from-the-back shot of her showering. A babysitter is asked if the husband and wife she's working for have "porn," with a brief discussion of hypothetical masturbation. Sexual activity is shown to have clear consequences.

Language

Some instances of strong language, including one "f--k," "s--t," and "bitch." "Retard" is used as an insult.

Consumerism

Some brands are visible on-screen or mentioned in dialogue, including Cosmopolitan magazine, Red Bull energy drink, and Xanax.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink liquor at a club and talk about being drunk; one character notes of the other's stressed-out state that "I would just take one of my mom's Xanax and call it a day." A character is seen leading some sort of 12-step group, although for what, exactly, viewers are never told.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a review of the PG-13-rated movie and not the unrated DVD version. This horror film, while relatively bloodless, is still totally frightening (as in NOT for younger kids). It's full of freaky, scary stuff like monsters, creatures, and demons. Since the evil entity in the movie can jump from body to body, much of the violence in the film involves un-possessed people lashing out at possessed victims -- including children. There's also lots of talk about abstract, monster-related theological issues (i.e. can a Jewish rite of exorcism protect a non-believer?). A subplot about a Holocaust survivor leads to imagery of Nazi death camps and medical experiments. Because the film's plot revolves around a stillborn twin, there's also disturbing imagery involving pregnancy, birth, and infancy that's used to create shock and horror. Characters also drink, swear, and get intimate (though nothing too sensitive is shown).

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byYldnole September 29, 2010
Just watched on HBO....surprised me on how creepy it was...not a bad way to spend a rainy day
Adult Written byshashank September 2, 2010

good movie

I really love this movie.....scary and hmm this is without gore
Teen, 13 years old Written byFilms123 August 23, 2019

Dull and Mundane Horror

The Unborn was released in the string of PG-13 horror films such as The Ring and The Others. However, this film sank into the crowd with the lack of scares and... Continue reading
Kid, 0 years old August 9, 2019

Really good

I love this movie, my Nanna and me watched it....

What's the story?

Young Casey Beldon (Odette Yustman) begins seeing fearful, frightening visions that all involve the phrase "Jumby wants to be born." Casey finds out from her father (James Remar) that Casey had a male twin who died in the womb -- and that their nickname for the him was "Jumby." Haunted by this new information, memories of her mother's suicide, and increasingly bizarre visions, Casey learns that she's being haunted by a diabolical sprit known as a dybbuk -- a dead soul barred from the afterlife -- that has been circling her family for generations in an effort to gain a foothold in this world. The spirt is trying to isolate Casey and break her down; can she keep herself and her friends safe as she tries to convince a skeptical rabbi (Gary Oldman) to perform a Jewish rite of exorcism? Or will Casey be the final victim of a darkness that's stalked her family over long, grim decades?

Is it any good?

The Unborn is just a fair-to-good horror film, but considering how many horror films are outright awful, that puts it far above its peers. Written and directed by David S. Goyer, the film may have fully modern digital effects and high-tech moviemaking, but it also has a nice, retro '70s feel, harkening back to supernatural chillers like The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby -- movies in which atmosphere was more important than gore, and supernatural goings-on were treated with a plains-spoken, matter-of-fact directness. Compared to moody-but-plotless horror films like The Grudge or Pulse, The Unborn's stop-the-ghost series of scares feels almost reassuringly old-fashioned.

Yustman (best known from her work in Cloverfield) is a sympathetic and strong protagonist, and Meagan Good gives sassy support as her best friend, while Cam Gigandet (Twilight) is a stalwart boyfriend as Casey's journey becomes more and more perilous. Oldman gives class and grace to what could have been a thankless role as the rabbi Casey turns to for help, and The Wire's Idris Elba also puts life and humanity into a small part.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way the film creates shock, tension, and horror with a relative minimum of blood. Is the movie's level of violence and unsettling imagery more or less scary because of its restraint?

  • Why are audiences drawn to horror movies?

  • Families can also discuss the role that traditional folklore of possession, demonic spirits, and ghosts plays in the movie. Why do these stories appear so frequently in most cultures?

  • What role do they have in theology and tradition?

Movie details

  • In theaters: January 9, 2009
  • On DVD or streaming: July 7, 2009
  • Cast: Cam Gigandet, Gary Oldman, Odette Yustman
  • Director: David S. Goyer
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Genre: Horror
  • Run time: 90 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: intense sequences of violence & terror, disturbing images, thematic material & language including some sexual references
  • Last updated: May 28, 2020

For kids who love Horror

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