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[CFF ’22] ‘The Unsettling’ review: More than another haunted house story

No one gets modern art.

The Unsettling follows a couple who have traveled to Los Angeles to escape a tragedy. Abena (Zephani Idoko) and Kwame (Bambadjan Bamba) want to use the vacation to repair their relationship. But differing expectations and an evil presence change everything. The film uses sound and cunning camerawork to build the tension. The Unsettling is filled with long moments that are toned down in presentation. Abena even points out how quiet and eerie the neighborhood is.

Director Harry Owens uses lighting and reflections throughout the film. Again, it is all subdued and adds to the creepiness in The Unsettling. These quieter moments lead to well crafted scares. Idoko and Bamba have great chemistry. The premise is a familiar one – Abena has concerns that Kwame is quick to dismiss – but the two prevent The Unsettling from ever feeling stale. The interactions between them add depth.

The Unsettling explores themes of masculinity and starting a new life in America. Oddly, both ideas are touched on in a way that makes them part of the story but not so much that they makes a difference. It is disappointing to see the ideas not explored more. The pace picks up during the final twenty minutes. At this point, Abena works with her friend Vivian (Libby Munro) to work through her past. Her decision leads to a chaotic final act that affects everyone.

[CFF '22] 'The Unsettling' review: More than another haunted house story

Though the third part of the film is the closest to a traditional boilerplate horror movie, there is still a grounded feel. There are more jump scares and loud noises, but The Unsettled never takes on the larger than life feeling often found in similar movies. It all culminates in a satisfying ending that leaves the right questions unanswered.

Tickets for the Chattanooga Film Festival are available HERE

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