PLOT: In order to help treat her brother’s cerebral palsy, a young woman and three friends retreat to a newly bought cabin in the woods. There, a horrifying history of the house slowly reveals itself to have lethal consequences.
REVIEW: Ensconced tightly between a handful of short films made over the past few years, writer/director Alexander Babaev has upped the laborious time and effort to deliver BORNLESS ONES, a prematurely stretched out, one-dimensional, bare minimum of a feature film that squanders a kernel of early intrigue in favor of tired and worn out horror convention. By using the affliction of cerebral palsy in one of the main characters as both a critical crutch and conduit to heal, no real larger attempt to address the congenital disorder is made, nor is it dismissed, and therefore an opportunity to tell a deeply divergent horror tale is set up for target, but ultimately missed. What we’re left with is a mildly amusing B-level tour through a demonically charged-up charnel house, one that fits snuggly in the substrata of rather run of the mill cabin in the woods thrillers. Almost by admission though, BORNLESS ONES is saying abort!
After a perfunctory preamble, we meet a quintet of handsome youngsters – two couples: Emily (Margaret Judson) and Jesse (Devin Goodsell), Woodrow (Mark Furze) and Michelle (Bobby T). The fifth wheel among them is Zach (Michael Johnston), Emily’s younger brother who happens to suffer from a severe case of cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia. Intent on treating her brother’s illness with a dose of nature: clean air, tall trees, total isolation, etc. Emily and Jesse decide to buy a cabin in the woods and move in immediately. Their friends come along to help. Of course, it only takes until nightfall before inexplicably eerie happenings occur. Turns out the previous owners of the cabin festooned the place with ancient demonology symbols to use the house as a sort of healing mechanism. Not just to ward off evil spirits, but to physically recover and grow stronger. As a palsy victim, this demonically charged-up energy takes direct aim at Zack, who slowly becomes subsumed by the malefic aura. He’s soon walking and talking again, but it doesn’t come without a steep cost.
Indeed, the dark forces prey upon Zack’s affliction, and soon we learn this odious race of demons is known as the titular Bornless Ones. That is, they represent the undead unborn. Soon cloudy smoke-monsters cordon the abode, forcing the quintet to remain inside for most of the duration. Further emboldening their scourge, the demons suss that Michelle is newly pregnant and soon viciously capitalize on that knowledge. It’s here where we need to mention how stunningly gorgeous the Irish born Bobby T is, especially when stripped down to her birthday suit. It’s the kind of blinding beauty that makes one willingly forget that her only credit heretofore came as “briefcase model #25” for the TV show Deal or No Deal. Not to be crude, lewd or rude, but she’s one of the best parts of the film. Yet even she cannot escape what becomes a repetitive bombardment of violence. We’re talking about fire-irons jousted to the face, wielded butcher knives, intense ocular impalement, rinse and repeat. Though the stints of violence are nasty and no doubt brutal, the minuscule kill count is conducted with the same one-dimensional death mode all the way through.
The bigger issue with the movie though, as slight and malnourished as it clearly reveals to be, comes with the abruptly accelerated transition between the lulling calm before the storm and the level 10, third-act cataclysm. Without the requisite time taken to credibly balance the action between these two poles, the stakes of the film are too rushed to feel at all authentic and/or believable. We go from zero to ten far too fast, which renders the entire thing sort of ludicrous. Clocking in at well under 80 minutes, there simply isn’t enough time to invest in character development or the completion of well structured dramaturgical acts. Worse yet, by introducing Zack’s cerebral palsy as a vital plot point, only to completely fail to make any sort of larger societal statement regarding mental and physical health, what we’re left with is little more than a cheaply manipulable attempt at sympathy. Sure, Zack slowly becomes empowered through demonic possession, but really, what can be beneficially drawn from that as it relates to real life cerebral palsy?
So, outside of some moderately exacted gore and a titillating stint of nubile nudity, BORNLESS ONES is about as fetally underdeveloped as it sounds. The story is silly, unbelievable, and hurls far too abruptly from first act to third. Worse, the movie makes no attempt other than cheaply culling sympathies is given in its inclusion of cerebral palsy as a key plot cog. No larger observation is given, no sincere cause remotely voiced. Because of this glaringly missed chance, the film really can’t elevate above the menial spate of undying cabin in the woods horror yarns that ceaselessly release. No, BORNLESS ONES is telling you all you need to know in its title: Abort!