Home » ‘The Unheard’ is an Overstuffed but Atmospheric Chiller from Shudder [Review]

‘The Unheard’ is an Overstuffed but Atmospheric Chiller from Shudder [Review]

With his sophomore feature The Unheard, filmmaker Jeffery A. Brown cements himself as a promising directorial voice in the indie horror world. The contemplative horror follows a young deaf woman named Chloe Grayden (a quietly assured Lachlan Watson), who returns to her family’s summer home in Cape Cod following an experimental surgical procedure designed to restore her lost hearing. It’s the first time Chloe has been to her childhood vacation home since the mysterious disappearance of her mother some years ago- a loss that still haunts her and her father. It haunts the town, too. Missing posters of vanished women dot the walls, telephone poles, and shopfronts across the sleepy seaside village. 

Chloe spends most of her time inside recovering until one morning finds her hearing completely, and miraculously, restored. The experimental procedure has worked- with a catch. Chloe begins to experience auditory hallucinations, her mother’s remembered voice echoing up through the floorboards and a permanently static television set. Soon, a local waitress disappears, setting in motion a mystery whose answers may lie in the potentially paranormal auditory phenomena Chloe is experiencing. 

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To call The Unheard a “slow burn” is to be (perhaps overly) polite, as the picture unfolds its various disparate (until they’re not) corners with a deliberation that borders on plodding. And while the core premise is quietly ingenious in its high-concept simplicity, it periodically crumples under the weight of the film’s less interesting tangents. There’s an underserved queer romantic angle, an undercooked murder-mystery, and a Sundance-ready grief drama battling for space atop a gloomy character study informed by Chloe’s isolation. It’s a lot of needles to thread, and yet, the movie still can’t help but feel padded with its 120 minute runtime. 

But, even with all of its structural cracks, The Unheard holds up. There is a certain element of buy-in required, but if it can be managed Brown’s take on the giallo-esque premise filtered through the trendy nu-analog horror aesthetic is pleasantly brooding, moody, and atmospheric. Lead Lachlan Watson is an intriguing on-screen presence. They imbue Chloe with a magnetic, low-key confidence without ever forgoing a grounded sense of vulnerability. Chloe is suffering, but never helpless. It’s a smart character choice, and strong showing from a promising performer. 

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The Unheard loses steam in its final quarter, when Brown attempts to merge the movie’s parallel puzzles together. The pieces never quite snap together as seamlessly as one might hope in terms of plot, but on its face, the climax is compelling enough- and Brown does successfully marry the various aesthetic quirks in the final moments. The Unheard requires patiences, but in this case, that patience is (mostly) rewarded.

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