unwelcome | jon wright | mark stay | hannah john-kamen | douglas booth | colm meaney | monster | creature | creature feature | goblin | goblins | united kingdom | ireland | kristian nairn | chris walley | niamh cusack | jamie-lee o'donnell | finbar lynch | rick warden
Director: Jon Wright
Writers: Mark Stay and Jon Wright
Starring: Hannah John-Kamen, Douglas Booth and Colm Meaney
This is a movie that I heard about when a buddy of mine, Derek, showed me a picture that he bought it. I hadn’t heard of it, but I investigated and it sounded interesting to me. I decided that since there wasn’t a new release coming to my theater that I would watch this as the 2023 release and make it a featured review. I also enjoyed it with my first watch and wanted to see what a second go around would do for my feelings on it.
Synopsis: married couple Maya (Hannah John-Kamen) and Jamie (Douglas Booth) escape their urban nightmare to the tranquility of rural Ireland only to discover malevolent and murderous creatures lurking in the gnarled, ancient wood at the foot of their garden.
Now to flesh out this synopsis just a bit more. Maya and Jamie at the start are trying to get pregnant. They live in the city, in an apartment. She takes a test and it is positive. Jamie goes to the store that is just outside their gate and has a run in with hoods. They follow him back up, break into their place and attack them.
They survive this ordeal. It is from there that we get the opening credits and see an old woman dead on the grass outside of an aged house. She turns out to be Maeve (Jean Evans) who is Jamie’s aunt. In her will, she left him the house. The couple decides to move there after what they went through. Niamh (Niamh Cusack) greets them and gives them the lay of the land.
It is through this discussion we learn that Maeve’s life was filled with tragedy. Jamie remembers the good times coming to visit. His aunt kept to herself and was superstitious. Every day, she would put out an offering to the far darrig. Jamie asks if they are like leprechauns to which he’s corrected. The other names for these mythical creatures are Red Caps or goblins. Niamh offers to come every day to continue this tradition, as she claims to have seen them once. This makes the couple uncomfortable after what they went through. Maya promises to keep this tradition going. Rightfully so, they have issues with people being around without them knowing.
Our couple then goes about getting acclimated to living in the country. There is a hole in the roof that Maeve seemed to just be living with. This couple is expecting and want it fixed. No one is available to start immediately except for the Whelans. The father is Colm (Colm Meaney) who insists on being called Daddy. He has a large son that is slow named Eoin (Kristian Nairn), another son that is a bit of a country hood of Killian (Chris Walley) and a daughter, Aisling (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell). They start immediately, but they’re not great with the work.
Things get set into motion when Maya forgets to put something out that first night. This upsets Niamh. A drunk who makes inappropriate comments at the pub, Rory (Lalor Roddy), disappears that night. Maya explores the woods that are behind this door in the garden and it is eerily beautiful. She finds a stone structure as well as Rory’s dog, Molly. These creatures might be real. They might also help this young couple, but at what price?
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that this movie wasn’t necessarily what I was expecting. Looking at the poster, I thought this would be cheesy. There are elements of that. It isn’t so much with the creatures, but more of the comedy that comes from Jamie and with how bad at their jobs the Whelans are. Outside of that, the tone is serious and it goes dark the later we get into this movie. I’ll give credit as well; this movie made me uncomfortable.
I think that this is where I’ll then shift as to why. The opening sequence with these hoods attacking is a mini home invasion segment. It is joyous knowing that Maya is pregnant. She and Jamie are happy. Then they were attacked and I went into a panic about the unborn baby. It is early on though so it doesn’t affect the pregnancy. I’ll admit, I’m bringing personal baggage here. The end of Jaime’s pregnancy was stressful so seeing them lose the baby would upset me. This event changes them. Jamie is a funny guy. He still is in their move to the country. He harbors anger as well for failing to protect Maya. I felt that. When there are issues with the Whelans, that upsets him. Maya doesn’t like the man that he’s become when pushed like this.
Keeping with the home invasion idea, this becomes a variation on Straw Dogs. The Whelans aren’t poor, but they’re lower-middle class or even upper-low class. Aisling and Killian have a chip on their shoulder. This makes them not like Maya and Jamie. They steal when they can. At the climax, they are looking for their brother Eoin and they know this couple knows something. They attack the house since they’re locked out. It is by then that we know about the creatures living in the forest. They come to the aid of the couple. This is where I’m saying that it comes at a price.
I won’t spoil what that is. What I like is that Maya and even a bit of Jamie, learns about his aunt through Niamh. It is also about the superstitions of the Red Caps. I like what we’re doing here as this is a creature that I don’t know a lot about. There are elements of changeling with something that happened previously to Maeve. Where it leads with Maya is heartbreaking with the difficult decision that must be made. It is almost making things right though. Doesn’t make it less bleak.
Since I don’t want to spoil it, next will be over to the acting. The two leads of John-Kamen and Booth are good. They play well off each other and feel like a couple. What is interesting is that we get a baseline then their world is turned upside down. There are changes that come over them, both good and bad. It also allows them to handle the situations that happen as events unfold. There are then characters that challenge or push them into different places. Meaney, Nairn, Walley and O’Donnell are the country versions of the hoods. Cusack wants to help them and keep them safe. I’d say that the rest of the village is similar as well.
Where I’ll then go is to filmmaking. The first thing is going to be the effects. While watching, I was debating whether I thought this was CGI or practical effects. What I’ve come to learn is that it seems mostly to be the latter. There is forced perspective and larger sets to simulate this. The look of the goblins are great. They have their own variation of English. This also gets violent with how they kill. They’re smaller, but they use the element of surprise. Credit was well to the cinematography. Outside of that, the soundtrack fits for what was needed. The voices of the monsters works in their favor as well.
In conclusion, this wasn’t what I was expecting in a good way. This has good character development of our leads. It also deals with relevant subject matter like trauma and its effects on people. The acting helps this to work as well. John-Kamen and Booth are good as the leads with the rest of the cast pushing them to where they end up. This is also well-made. Special credit to the effects being better than I would expect. Not a great movie. I don’t mean that as a slight though as I think it is effective. I’d recommend this to horror fans for sure. It gets a bit cheesy, but in the best way.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10