“Today is the day you pay for your consequences.”
That is the line from Bornless Ones, the magnum opus from writer/director Alexander Babaev, that I think about whenever I’m about to give this flick too much praise. It’s not as if mangled idioms aren’t commonplace in film, but it’s a useful reminder that this flick ain’t The Exorcist.
From 2016, Bornless Ones is a neat take on the cabin in the woods subgenre of horror. It’s not great, though. At times it’s not even that good. It’s one of those films that improves on a well-worn idea, but finds itself weighed down by some bad dialogue and weak reads. The second half is awash in blood and gore, so it has that going for it.
The story follows four pretty people who encounter demons while at an isolated house in the woods. They are: Emily (Margaret Judson), her husband Jesse (Devin Goodsell), and couple Woodrow and Michelle (Mark Furze and Bobby T).
Emily and Jesse bought the house because Emily has recently become the guardian for her younger brother, Zach (Michael Johnston), who has cerebral palsy, and the house is near a residential home where he is going to be placed.
The house is a fixer-upper and, in the first bit of questionable plot that viewers will notice, its condition is a surprise to Emily and Jesse. Pro-tip for all you first time home buyers out there: don’t buy a property without having seen it in person. You might wind up purchasing a home with boards over the windows…on the inside…and demons in the basement.
The demons in this flick offer a fool’s bargain to anyone in the house. They will cure any affliction as long as the person lets the demons take their body for a joyride. The four main protagonists are in good health, but then there is Zach, fully aware of the world around him, but unable to interact with it because of his condition. In short, that guy is a mark.
The film takes about half its 81-minute running time getting going, as hinted at above, but it moves at a swift pace in the 2nd half, as Emily and company have to deal with the demons, and some very gruesome physical injuries.
Once the first person in the group gets injured, the floodgates open. The demons use trickery, possession, and hallucination to make the characters injure themselves and each other, usually by impalement or slicing. It’s the type of bloody good fun that will pucker a viewer up but stays just cartoonish enough not to slip into torture porn. The only bad news with the gore is that the film relies on CGI to flesh out the practical effects, while in some shots the gore is all CGI. I’m no Luddite when it comes to CGI. Computer effects are getting better and better as time goes on, but it’s also something that needs a good budget to be done well, and this flick didn’t have that.
That’s easily ignored should a viewer get into the movie, and this film, surprisingly, drew me in. It’s surprising not because of its cheapness, but because of the dialogue and the cast’s skills in reading it. It’s all very forced, as if the dialogue came from the pen of a first-time writer, and the direction came from a first-time auteur. Lo and behold, this was Babaev’s first feature as a writer/director. There’s a lack of polish to his storytelling, and overreach to his ambition, that permeates the film from beginning to end. Babaev is not without skill. Everything just feels like a first draft.
On a dark and stormy night, after having browsed streaming services for fifteen minutes looking for something, anything, that scratches the horror itch, and having already seen The Evil Dead a dozen times, one could do worse than settling for Bornless Ones.