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‘The Unborn’: 3 Things to Like

Saturday, January 10, 2009 11:30 AM Comments (0)

The not-quite non-Catholic exorcism in The Unborn.

Rotten Tomatoes says critics mostly hated it. So why did I take my wife to see The Unborn on opening night?

A line from the trailer sold us: “Do you think it’s possible to be haunted by someone who was never even born?”

April loves horror movies, and I love unintended pro-life statements. It was a perfect fit.

I agree with the critic who says: “The movie’s not very good, but there are ideas, good and bad, in its execution that are worth mulling over.” Here are three such ideas, according to me:

(Expect spoilers throughout this post, by the way)

1. It illustrates the principle: A story that mentions preborn life must acknowledge its humanity or ring false.

The too-often inadequately dressed Odette Yustman character in The Unborn is assaulted by images of children and fetuses, and the phrase “Jumby wants to be born.” Eventually, her dad tells her she had a twin brother who died in utero. She’s upset by the news, and he wonders why.

“He was never your brother,” he answers. “It was way too early in the pregnancy for that.”

He and her mother had nicknames for the twins, though, he said. Her twin was “Jumby.”

The story’s central demon certainly respects the unborn, and the twisted regret that fills the human story is reminiscent of post-abortion depression.

2. Against its own will, it illustrates the hard and fast rule: Real religion in movies must be Catholic.

The film creates a crazy kind of ancient Jewish/Gnostic demonology to hang its hat on. But then the rabbi/exorcist skips the synagogue and uses a spooky abandoned gym with stained glass Catholic windows. Then he brings along a collar-wearing Episcopal priest. Then the priest assures the girl that the exorcism has “Permission of the ecclesiastical authority,” and finishes his Romish transformation by crossing himself at a critical point.

3. For all the craziness (and PG-13 immorality) in the story, it tries to raise some interesting questions.

My favorites:

A doubting secularized rabbi finds faith by encountering the supernatural.

One of our heroine’s lines sums up why “Christ the exorcist” came:

“Maybe the world was never safe,” she says, staring at her illicit lover with wide eyes. “We were always trying to pretend that it was, but it’s not.”

— Tom Hoopes

Filed under movies, weekend commentary

About Guest Blogger/Tom Hoopes

Tom  Hoopes
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Tom Hoopes is Vice President of College Relations and writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He has written for the Register for more than 20 years and was its executive editor for 10. His writing has appeared in First Things’ First Thoughts, National Review Online, Crisis, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside Catholic and Columbia. He has served as press secretary for the Chairman of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee. He and his wife, April, were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family magazine for 5 years. They have nine children.