watch the trailer for Unwanted
How far would you go to protect your family? That’s the question at the heart of Unwelcome, the new creature feature from Jon Wright, the director of cult thrillers Grabbers and Robot Overlords, set to hit UK theaters on January 27.
The family in question is Maya (Hannah John-Kamen) and Jamie (Douglas Booth), a young couple expecting their first child. The house of their dreams is soon attacked by an ancient, malevolent entity lurking in the forest at the foot of their garden.
The film began life with a conversation between Wright and his screenwriter collaborator Mark Stay. They struggled with the dilemma of what it meant to be pacifist at the time of threat.
“If our families, our children, were threatened, we would do something violent to save them,” Wright told Yahoo.
“The more we talked about it, the more we realized that we could potentially be extremely violent, because – as non-violent people – we would want this violence to end so abruptly and quickly. It’s this contradiction that we think is really interesting.”
The source of the threat in Unwelcome is goblins, or more specifically Redcaps (and certainly NOT leprechauns, despite the setting). “This is an old myth and legend that you have in many different cultures,” Wright explains. “It exists in Ireland but also in England. They are goblins who dip their caps in the blood of their victims.
“We really liked it because it went against the stereotypical idea of leprechauns or friendly garden gnomes. These are scary goblins. They’re the violence of the story.”
Reuniting with Shaune Harrison’s prosthetics, Paul Catling’s creature designs, and the acclaimed Grabbers creature crew, including VFX supervisor Paddy Eason, Wright’s vision for Unwelcome is a thrill for practical effects fans in the CG era.
Here he dedicates the trailer for Yahoo only.
“It’s largely a Glow send-off, but only for nerds,” Wright says of the trailer’s opening scene, which features Torrance going head-to-toe at the start of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic.
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“But yellow is also the color of cowardice, the color of Maya. They have a yellow dress, they drive yellow…”
“The movie is a combination of the big scenes we built in the UK and the Irish outdoors,” Wright says. “Here’s a house we built, but it’s based on extensive research into a particular architectural style that you get in the Irish countryside, and it’s a very definitive look.”
The soundstages were built at RAF Bovingdon in Hertfordshire, which has hosted Bohemian Rhapsody, Rogue One and TV’s Dancing on Ice in recent years.
“Due to Covid, all the companies that would normally build stages for concerts were out of work, and we had one of these companies take a piece of the track and put a huge concert stage on it. It was definitely a giant stage. It was huge. Probably much bigger than we could normally afford.”
“They’re fish out of water,” Wright says. “They wouldn’t normally take such a big step to go to the middle of nowhere, but at the very beginning of the movie they have a violent encounter. This extremely violent encounter terrifies them so much that when Jamie gets the opportunity to move into the house he inherited from his aunt, they take advantage of it.
“For the most part everyone in the village is very nice to them and very welcoming and having a good time, but they end up in a family they shouldn’t have to deal with at all. And it’s a pretty dangerous family.”
“Hannah really impressed me in this movie,” Wright says. “I knew she was a good actress but she really exceeded my expectations with this movie. I think he’s absolutely great at this.
“It’s interesting because it’s a horror movie, but it gives a very subtle, layered, interesting performance in it.”
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Rising star Hannah John-Kamen (Ant-Man and The Wasp, SAS Red Notice) plays Maya, a heavily pregnant woman who comes under increasing threat from the Redcaps as the movie progresses.
Her birth is very close, not far from giving birth when they arrive in Ireland. And that’s part of the job: ‘What am I going to do to take care of my unborn child?’”
“There were two things we wanted to show. [in Unwelcome] We felt like you don’t see it very often in movies, and one was a woman who was extremely pregnant, especially as the heroine.”
“The other thing is that Douglas Booth plays the part of a coward,” the director adds. “As a man, as an actor, he was really brave because he’s playing the truth about what it means to be a coward.
“What you see all the time in movies, especially now that we’re in the superhero phase, you see people stepping up to the challenge and saying ‘let’s go’ and being very formidable and tough in the face of aggression. What you don’t see is that it’s more like real life, where people get totally panicked and lost and unable to cope when faced with violence. And that’s essentially what happened to Doug’s character. He is very afraid.
“Doug also plays reality in a very honest and realistic way. He looks like a lead actor but has the soul of a character actor.”
As the trailer shows, the house the couple inherited needs some remodeling, so the couple hires a local rowdy family to help with the repairs. However, their relationship deteriorates and fuels the fire.
colm [Meaney] Wright is the founder and head of this dysfunctional family, and Colm really seems like the role to me. “He was at the top of a fairly short list of people I thought would be credible in this role. He brings dignity. He also plays a villain. He’s normally pretty charming and likeable.”
Redcaps, only briefly seen in the trailer, are causing chaos at the heart of Unwelcome. A primordial and malevolent force that begins to wreak havoc on the young family. Like the Gremlins, which had an obvious influence in the movie, the creatures were practically brought to life with a combination of puppets and visual effects to make them instinctively creepier.
“Sometimes in movies today, creatures are made entirely in CG, and when you see them running and jumping, you can see that gravity isn’t quite right and sometimes doesn’t seem quite right,” Wright explains diplomatically. .
“The original presentation when we released the movie was a modern revision of Gremlins Meets Straw Dogs. So Gremlins were very much in my thoughts. But Redcaps take great pleasure in committing acts of violence. They have no regrets about it. They have no conscience about it. It’s part of their culture, that’s what they do.
“Especially in the last third of the movie, the Redcaps are unleashed. Everything gets so crazy and intense. After people watched the movie – positively – they said, ‘I like it, but oh my God. It’s so violent!’
“But in a fun roller coaster style!”
It seems like the perfect combination in our books.
Unwelcome is in theaters from January 27.