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The Unhealer Movie Review

Written by Joanna K. Neilson

Released by Horror Business Films

article-cover

Directed by Martin Guigui
Written by J. Shawn Harris and Kevin E. Moore
2020, 94 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Grimmfest UK Premiere on 9th October 2020

Starring:
Natasha Henstridge as Bernice
Lance Henriksen as Pflueger
Elijah Nelson as Kelly
Chris Browning as Gus

Review:

Kelly (Elijah Nelson) is a troubled young man with a fairly unique problem. While school can be hell, it's made even worse when your pica condition - which compels you to eat non-food items, ranging from literal garbage to the tips of pencil erasers - makes you target number one for some extremely vicious, well-protected bullies. As Kelly's condition worsens, his mum, Bernice (Natasha Henstridge) takes drastic action, calling in shady faith healer Pfleuger (Lance Henriksen). Perhaps he can fix her boy? But of course, nothing quite goes to plan, and soon Pfleuger's ill-gotten talents have been passed onto Kelly. Before long, all pain inflicted on Kelly, by anything, will be repaid by instant karma. But it will take an absolute tragedy to push poor Kelly right over the edge.

the unhealer 01 the unhealer 02

The film has a lot of fun with this combination of revenge and forced empathy. Throwing in some Native American mythology a la Stephen King, this is an entertaining twist on the traditional 'bullied weakling becomes vengeful monster' trope, which has played out in films ranging from Chronicle to Carrie. It's a popular power fantasy and The Unhealer really manages to do it justice with some great performances. It's always good to see Lance Henriksen, and he has great fun as the gnarly, wonderfully-named, Pfleugler. Natasha Henstridge puts Species far behind her and shows warmth and compassion as Kelly's put-upon mother, Bernice. These two horror stalwarts centre the film, but the story hangs off Kelly himself - and Elijah Nelson brilliantly plays both the vulnerable, sickly victim and cold, purposeful monster.

You've never seen repressed teenage rage done quite like this before - although it's now the second recent film to use pica disorder as a major plot point, also appearing in the underseen Swallow (2019). In both films, the condition becomes both a cry for help, and a weapon for breaking out from under repression.

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Despite its unique twist, it is a little unpolished in places. At the very start it's unclear just what Pfleuger is up to at the sacred ground, although things make more sense as it unfolds. While it takes its time getting there, the unavoidable consequences play out in an uneven, but satisfying way. Kelly's isolating compulsion makes him both repellent and pitiable, and the incredibly cruel bullies may as well have 'Kill me' signs on their backs from the start. What happens won't be entirely surprising, but the pica twist keeps it interesting - particularly when the curse gets briefly used for pleasure over pain - it's actually a shame that this aspect wasn't more deeply explored. The Red Elk character is campy, existing purely to provide the warnings and exposition, which all get a little too hokey at times.

the unhealer 05 the unhealer 06

Hokey or not, any fan of classic Stephen King should definitely check out The Unhealer. With a few genuine surprises along the way, some real tragedy, and a confident knack of delivering on its potential, The Unhealer has a lot of fun with its idea. While it's not utterly perfect or all that polished, it's certainly different enough to be well worth your time.

Grades:

Movie: 4 Star Rating Cover
Buy Amazon Uk

About The Author
Joanna K. Neilson
Staff Reviewer
Favourite film ever watched is Alien (1979), but usually prefers to ingest her horror with a dollop of comedy relief…though the dusty charm of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1971) and the black and white lure of Psycho (1960) continues to draw her in. Found Baskin weirdly hilarious. Finds Finding Nemo godawful. Adores H.P. Lovecraft and has sort-of pilgrimed to his grave in Providence - very tidy. Very long walk. Half-expected cats and cultists to be set up all around it but sadly, just signs saying ‘no photos’ in the cemetery.
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