Unwelcome (2023)

Director: Jon Wright

Running Time: 104 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Hannah John-Kamen, Douglas Booth, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell, Colm Meaney, Kristian Nairn, Chris Walley, Niamh Cusack

Living in a London flat, newly pregnant couple Maya (Hannah John-Kamen) and Jamie (Douglas Booth) find their world shattered when they're attacked by intruding hoodlums. When they inherit an idyllic home in rural Ireland, the couple believe their prayers have been answered, only to discover their garden contains murderous goblins known as Redcaps.

After the unsettling opener, the couple grapple with their trauma differently as Jamie is consumed with rage, while Maya tries deescalating matters. The performances effectively capture how the couple are left traumatized, yet it's unfortunate there's few other character traits for the pair. Regardless of the many declarations of love shared, it's difficult to buy into the couple's romance when Jamie repeatedly cowers away while the plot heaps misery onto Maya.

Whenever the redcaps appear, it feels as though the film can finally let loose. The tremendous practical effects bring alive these creatures which such personality, who are part of the most grisly scenes. It brings to mind the mischief and bloodthirsty slaughter from Gremlins, which makes it disappointing that such an entertaining element appears so rarely.

The story follows an Irish take on Straw Dogs, as Mark Stay's screenplay follows the less-interesting route of stock characters causing havoc and repeatedly putting a pregnant woman in peril. Populating the story is an ever-interesting Colm Meaney demanding everyone calls him "Daddy", and Kristian Nairn feeling typecast in a role similar to his Game of Thrones work. As this tale unfolds with such seriousness, the tone clashes with the more fun elements involving the redcaps.

As the finale tacks on an additional ending, what unfolds is a bizarre occurrence of dangling threads which feels included because of a studio note reminding that people loved Robert Eggers' The VVitch. After 2012's Grabbers, it's a shame Jon Wright's next slice of monster fun in Ireland is a less effective mixture.

Unwelcome is available in cinemas now