I saw a lot of incredible short films during the Women in Horror Film Festival. Everything running the gamut from psychological torture to outright gore and always from a unique perspective. There were movies that gave me the creeps, that made me laugh, and more than a few that left me pretty shaken up as the lights came up in the screening room. But none of what I saw had prepared me for the abject horror and discomfort that I suffered at the hands of Unbearing.
Warning, there will be spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Unbearing has your classic crazed killer/ghost story set up. New parents hire a teenage girl to babysit their six month old son. The child is asleep and the parents insist that he will sleep until their return and stress to their sitter the importance of leaving the child be. The father seems tired but relieved to be getting out for a bit while the mother is bizarrely attached to the point of being afraid to leave. Doing homework and chatting with a friend on the phone, the babysitter hears about another couple on the street who lost a six month old only a few years earlier and about how horrible that must have been for them. That’s about the time the baby monitor left in the living room stops making noise.
The loud, continuous breathing of a child suddenly ends, leaving a vacuum of silence that feels so heavy, so thick as to press the breath right out of your lungs as you scoot to the edge of your seat. From the small screen on the monitor, the infant is lying completely still. Our babysitter being the sort of professional, compassionate woman she is, walks into the bedroom against the parents’ explicit warnings not to do so to find an iPod on shuffle that begins to play the gentle sounds of a child’s breathing as she picks it up. Realizing too late the sort of bizarre, dangerous situation she’s now in, the film closes with a chilling look at what happens to a mother robbed of her child.
I came at this film from a professional standpoint first. Working in emergency services for so long, I’ve had some dark and unsettling experiences. I’ve heard children stop breathing and I’ve heard the chilling sound of a mother lamenting that lost child. But seeing it on the screen, the sort of psychotic aftermath imagined by writer and star Jennifer Trudung is nothing short of chilling and it left me shaken as the house lights rose and the audience applauded. The story could easily have fallen into so many tropes. A killer in the home. A ghost. Some sort of true crime, frame job. Murder, mystery or mayhem, the story had so many directions it could have taken and the one I didn’t see coming until it was too late was exactly the direction the plot took.
The film itself was shot with the help of a crew that included some extremely talented and professional young filmmakers working alongside the veteran Trudung, ranging in age from 17 to 21. With an atmosphere that is immediately off putting and shots that capture the sort of underlying horror that the audience is about to experience, it’s not a surprise that Unbearing won the Audience Choice award at the first annual Women in Horror Film Festival. You can check out more about Unbearing and other films by Jennifer Trudung on her website at https://www.jennifertrudrung.com/ and you can find a lot more about the films of the Women in Horror Film Festival coming soon to 52 Weeks of Horror.
Jennifer is definitely a #scaremaker to follow.
Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.