Watch the trailer for Undesirable
How far will you go to protect your family? That’s the question at the heart of Unwelcome, the new film from Jon Wright, director of cult thrillers Grabbers and Robot Overlords, in UK cinemas from January 27.
The family in question is Maya (Hannah John-Kamen) and Jamie (Douglas Booth), a young couple expecting their first child who jump from an urban nightmare into a frying pan into the fire of their new home in Ireland. Their dream home is soon attacked by an ancient malevolent entity that lurks in the forest at the bottom of their garden.
The film opened with a conversation between Wright and his co-screenwriter Mark Stay. They grappled with the dichotomy of what it means to be a pacifist in times of danger.
“If our families, our children were in danger, we would do something brutal to save them,” Wright tells Yahoo.
“The more we talked about it, the more we realized that we could potentially be extremely aggressive because, as non-violent people, we would like this violence to come to a very abrupt and quick end. This contradiction that we thought was really interesting.”
The source of danger in Unwelcome is the goblins, more specifically the Red Hoods (and definitely NOT dwarfs, despite the scenery). “It’s an old myth and legend that exists in many different cultures,” explains Wright. “It’s in Ireland, but you have it in England too. They are goblins who dip their hats in the blood of their victims.
“We loved it because it went against the stereotypical leprechaun or the idea of friendly garden gnomes. They’re scary goblins. It’s the violence of this story.”
Wright’s vision for Unwelcome is exciting for fans of practical effects in the era of computer graphics.
Here he breaks down the trailer exclusively for Yahoo.
“It’s very much a reference to The Shining, but only for nerds,” Wright says of the opening shot of the trailer, which mirrors Torrance’s drive to the vantage point at the beginning of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic.
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“But also yellow is the color of cowardice, which is the color of Maya. She has a yellow dress, they drive a yellow car…”
“The film is a combination of big stages we built in the UK and Irish locations,” Wright tells us. “So this is the house we built, but it’s based on extensive research into this particular architectural style you can get in rural Ireland, which is a very specific look.”
The soundstages were built at RAF Bovingdon in Hertfordshire, which has hosted Bohemian Rhapsody, Rogue 1 and the TV show Dancing on Ice in recent years.
“Because of Covid, all the companies that would normally build stages for concerts were unemployed, and we asked one of these companies to take a piece of the runway and put a huge concert stage on it. It was an absolutely gigantic scene. It was great. Much more than we would probably normally be able to afford.”
“They’re like a fish out of water,” says Wright. “Normally, they wouldn’t have made such a big jump to go to the wasteland, but there is a brutal clash right at the beginning of the film. It’s an extremely violent encounter that scares them so much that when the opportunity arises to move into the house Jamie inherited from his aunt, they take advantage of it.
“Mostly everyone in the village is nice and hospitable to them and they have a great time, but they end up with a family they shouldn’t be dealing with. And that’s a pretty dangerous family.”
“Hannah really impressed me in this film,” says Wright. “I knew she was a good actress, but she really exceeded my expectations with this film. I think she’s absolutely amazing at it.
“It’s interesting because it’s a horror movie, but within that it gives a very polished, layered, interesting performance.”
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Rising star Hannah John-Kamen (Ant-Man and the Wasp, SAS Red Notice) is Maya, a heavily pregnant woman who comes increasingly threatened by the Redcaps as the film progresses.
“The due date is coming up, it’s not far from giving birth when they will arrive in Ireland. So that’s part of it, “what will I do to take care of my unborn baby?”
“We wanted to show two things [in Unwelcome] we felt she wasn’t seen very often in movies, and one of them was a woman who was extremely pregnant, especially as a character.”
“Plus, Douglas Booth plays a coward,” adds the director. “As a man, as an actor, he was really very brave because he plays the truth about what it’s like to be a coward.
“What you see in movies endlessly, especially now that we’re in the superhero phase, you see people taking a challenge and saying ‘give it your best’ and being very stoic and tough in the face of aggression. What you don’t see is more like real life where people completely panic and lose their p***s and can’t cope when faced with violence. And that’s basically what happens with Doug’s character. He is very afraid.
“And Doug plays that truth very honestly and realistically. He has the look of a lead actor, but he has the soul of a character actor.”
As the trailer shows, the house the couple inherited needs some work, so the couple recruits a local family to help with the repairs. However, their relationship soured, adding fuel to the fire.
“Column [Meaney] he is the builder and patriarch of this dysfunctional family, and Colm really looks like the role,” says Wright. “He was at the top of a fairly short list of people I thought would be credible in the role. He brings gravitas. He also plays a villain. He’s usually charming and likeable.”
The Red Hoods, only seen briefly in the trailer, are the cause of chaos at the heart of Unwelcome. A primal and malevolent force that begins to wreak havoc on a young family. Like the Gremlins, which have an obvious influence on the film, the creatures were made practically with a combination of puppets and visual effects to make them more terrifying.
“Sometimes in movies today, the creatures are shot in full CG, and when you see them running and jumping, you can see that the gravity isn’t quite right, and sometimes they just don’t seem right,” Wright explains diplomatically.
“The original premise when we released the film was a modern version of Gremlins meets Straw Dogs. So Gremlins were very much on my mind. But Redcaps take joyful pleasure in committing acts of violence. They don’t apologize for it. They have no conscience about it. It’s part of their culture, it’s what they do.
“Especially in the last third of the movie, the Redcaps are unleashed. Everything becomes very crazy and intense. Something people said to me when they saw the movie – in a positive way – “I like it, but my god.” he is so brutal!
“But in a fun way like a roller coaster!”
Sounds like the perfect match in our books.
Unwelcome in cinemas from January 27.