“The Unspoken” kicks off with so many ham-handed, over-italicized omens that you’d be forgiven for thinking the movie was a satire. A cop investigating a disturbance at a remote house happens upon a car with a crucifix hanging from the mirror. Then the crucifix is suddenly upside down. In the house, a pot of something-or-other is boiling away on the stove, and the body of a priest drops down from the ceiling. How dead is he? He’s hung from the neck, his wrists are slit, and a crucifix is carved — upside down! — into his forehead. At this point, you’re starting to think that you’re watching “Scary Movie 12,” except that even those past-the-sell-by-date parodies do a better job of creating a fearful atmosphere than “The Unspoken” does. All that’s missing from this one is Donald Trump popping up to call Satan a loser.
The phrase “low-budget horror” once held out the promise of seedy grisly sensation that big-budget horror wouldn’t give you. But in the case of a movie like “The Unspoken,” it just means: standard glossy horror tropes executed with scary ineptitude. The film mindlessly mashes up the haunted-house and demonic-possession genres, and while those two forms can, on occasion, be melted together like complementary flavors of ice cream (as in the “Conjuring” films), here it feels more like the writer-director, Sheldon Wilson, saw a lot of haunted-house and exorcist movies and tossed every cliché in his head into the mix. When a single mother and her son move into that remote cedar-shingle house, the inevitable Creepy Guy comes over and stares at them for so long that if he were doing this in Creepy Guy acting class, the teacher would say, “Dude! Tone it down.”
The movie even folds in a third genre: the silent-kid-with-the-stony-stare-of-the-Uncanny (“The Shining,” “The Sixth Sense”). The kid, named Adrian (Sunny Suljic), is either a victim or a monster, and the movie tries in vain to work up some sympathy for him. Angela (Jodelle Ferland), the teenager who becomes his babysitter, spends most of her time fending off some local bullies as well as a further onslaught of omens: a pouncing cat, a buzzy swarm of flies, marbles that roll out from under the bed. Is it the kid who’s doing this? Each time the film focuses on Adrian’s all-knowing poker face, it seems to be some kind of warning. You half expect him to say, “I see dull people.”