We’ve all heard stories of the mythical creatures that live in the woods, right? The tales of fairies and fae to wish granting leprechauns…but have you ever heard of the Redcap? Jon Wright brings those malevolent little murderous goblins to life in his recent film Unwelcome.
After being attacked in their London flat, Jamie (Douglas Booth) and newly pregnant Maya (Hannah John-Kamen) learn that they were left a house in rural Ireland by Jamie’s recently deceased aunt. Taking the opportunity they’ve been given, they flee their urban nightmare for the peace of the Irish countryside. While moving in, they are approached by local pub owner Maeve who begins to fill them in on the property they’ve inherited. When stumbling upon an old gate and door leading to the wood Maeve begins to tell them about the legend of the “Redcaps” and asks them to continue the tradition of leaving offerings for the little ones like Jamie’s aunt did before. Brushing the story aside the young couple begin to settle in but they soon realize between hostile locals and whatever may lurk in the woods, they might not be as welcome as they thought.
I’ve been sitting with this movie for a couple of days now and I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it. With a cast sporting some familiar faces like Kristian Nairn, Colm Meaney, and Hannah John-Kamen I’m shocked I didn’t like this more. I enjoyed the performances from Meaney as the overbearing, abusive father and Nairn as the dimwitted oaf of a son but that’s what I’ve come to expect from them when compared to their previous work. Typecasting anyone? The protagonists are a different story though. The character of Jamie was extremely irritating which made it difficult to root for him even when you feel like you should but Maya’s character grew on me as the film progressed.
They set the story up pretty well with a brutal home invasion but honestly, home invasion horror all feels the same to me. Once that creature element hit though, things went off the rails pretty quickly and I was thoroughly engaged. I was worried this one was taking itself way too seriously but that last hour was absolutely entertaining. A few things stand out for me in this flick, some good and some bad. I loved the creature design. The “Redcaps” were reminiscent of the creatures from The Gate giving the 2nd act an 80’s horror/fantasy vibe which is something I adore. Oh, and the scenery…that picturesque countryside juxtaposed with the dark woods encased in shadow was absolutely beautiful. The English-hating Irish antagonist on the other hand just had you wanting to reach through the screen and smack them but then again that might have been the point.
I’m not sure exactly where I stand on this one though. There were elements I liked but I’m not sure that was enough to save this one for me. It’s definitely worth a watch but it’s not going to please everyone.
If you want to judge for yourself, Unwelcome is in theaters now as part of AMC’s Thrills and Chills lineup and will be streaming on the 14th.