Monday, March 06, 2023

Jon Wright’s Unwelcome

Redcaps are basically goblins or leprechauns gone bad. They are supposedly mainly Scottish, but also Northeast Ireland, where Jamie and Maya have just inherited a home. Locals call then the “Little People,” but if you cross them, you could get it right in the lucky charms. Criminal lowlifes are also pose a danger to their wellbeing in Jon Wright’s Unwelcome, which opens Wednesday in theaters.

Just when Maya’s pregnancy test finally tests positive (as they hoped), she and Jamie are badly beaten by a gang of thugs. Fortunately, a presumably safe escape from London estate violence suddenly opens up when Jamie inherits a somewhat dilapidated but cozy Irish country home from his eccentric aunt. The only stipulation, according to his late aunt’s friend, is that they leave a little bit of raw liver by the gate to the woods each night as a “blood offering” for the “Little People.”

Okay, fine—Maya will humor her. The problem is grouchy old “Dad” Whelan is the only contractor available to fix the hole in their roof. It won’t take long to figure out why he and his creepy family were idle. Things will take a
Straw Dogs turn, but the Redcaps in the woods are the wild card that could save the couple, but at what cost?

Too much of
Unwelcome focuses on the Irish-style Deliverance business, but when the Redcaps finally show themselves, they turn out to be awesome. They are actually laugh-out-loud hilarious, in a darkly macabre sort of way. They out shine the Leprechaun and Gremlin franchises when it comes to attitude. The creature design work is also pretty cool.

It somewhat makes sense Wright (who previously helmed 
Grabbers and Robot Overlords) tried to hold back and not show too many Redcaps too soon, to maximize their impact, but they are far and away the best thing about the film. Colm Meaney is appropriately sinister as Whelan, but his abusive behavior is not nearly as much fun. Hannah John-Kamen and Douglas Booth are frankly a little too whiny and a little too drippy to embrace with much enthusiasm as Maya and Jamie.

However, the Redcaps are amazing. Rick Warden (credited as the Redcap Chief), Paul Warren (credited as Redcap Mr. Sniff) and the rest of the cast, crew, and designers bringing the “Little People” to life have done some amazing work.

So, respect the Redcaps, because they are not to be trifled with. Not a lot of movie fans will feel like they need more of Maya and Jamie, but the Little People are wild and crazy enough to support a sequel. Recommended for the nutty little monsters,
Unwelcome opens Wednesday (3/8) at theaters.