Because of the wise-cracking, goblin-like creatures in Unwelcome, the film will likely be compared to Gremlins. That said, director movie is also very different than the gateway horror classic. It contains elements of folk horror, home invasion, and Irish history, mixed with heavy themes regarding motherhood and trauma. This makes for a sharp and engaging feature that, while a little uneven, never ceases to entertain.

Unwelcome starts at full-throttle. Married couple Maya (Hannah John-Kamen) and Jamie (Douglas Booth) have much to celebrate after they find out she’s pregnant. However, their world shatters after Jamie encounters criminals in the couple’s urban London neighborhood who follow him home and invade the couple’s house. The group beats Maya and Jamie to near death. This causes the couple to move to rural Ireland and stay at a castle-like estate owned by Jamie’s deceased aunt, a woman of deep superstition. Maya and Jamie learn from a local that the aunt made a blood sacrifice each night to satisfy and keep at bay the redcaps, malevolent and murderous goblin-like creatures that lurk in ancient woods. Oh, and it turns out these little fiends have a taste for babies especially.

The film’s use of Irish folklore works quite well here, as do the folk horror elements. There’s a frequent clash between the past and the present. Jamie, who is mostly English, scoffs at the ancient traditions, while Maya is keen to show them more respect to protect her baby. Meanwhile, the couple hires a family to fix up the house, and this again sets up a conflict that leans into the folk horror elements. The family, run by the imposing patriarch Whelan (Colm Meaney),  who insists everyone call him Daddy, torments Jamie due to his English heritage. In short, this couple just can’t catch a break. The family judges Jamie because of the long-standing history between the Irish and English that he had no role in. To nearly everyone in the small village, he and Maya are outsiders, urban, and disrespectful of tradition.

There’s a lot at stake and at play in Unwelcome, and sometimes it feels like too much. The redcaps don’t really factor into the film until the second half and aren’t shown to the viewer until pretty late into the runtime. That said, they sure cause mischief and bloodshed once unleashed. It’s a blast to watch. There’s also the fact Maya and Jamie are still reeling from the home invasion, but their trauma and how they deal with it in very different ways deserved more focus. Still, both John-Kamen and Booth turn in solid performances here, especially John-Kamen, whose character deals with anxieties surrounding motherhood. This is another element that deserved a little more breathing room.

All that said, Unwelcome has several positives. It’s a gorgeous film. The green and lush Irish countryside pop, and the vibrant colors make for an interesting contrast to the film’s violence. Further, the folk horror elements, especially the clash of traditions, really work. As for the creatures, they look cool, and they’re a hoot. Unwelcome is a noteworthy Irish horror film with memorable monsters that bring mayhem and laughs. With March nearing, why not give it a watch?

6.5 Out of 10



Brian Fanelli

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