First Born (2007) / Thriller

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for disturbing images and language
Running Time: 97 min.

Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Steven Mackintosh, Kathleen Chalfant, Blair Brown, Anne Wolf, Emma Myles
Director: Isaac Webb
Screenplay: Isaac Webb
Review published January 6, 2007

Elizabeth Shue (Dreamer, Hide and Seek) stars as Laura, a dancer whose life takes a sudden turn when it is discovered that she is pregnant with her first child.  She moves into the suburbs with her husband, Steven (Mackintosh, The Jacket), into a spacious house, although Laura seems a bit out of sorts with her rural surroundings.  Things get more disturbing after the birth of her baby, as strange occurrences abound -- rats, a mysterious diary left from a previous tenant, dolls that move around without reason, and nannies that dangle bizarre things under the crib.  This culminates in Laura trying to do what she can to protect her baby from those that are trying to do it harm, although everyone else thinks she must be imagining it all.

Written and directed by first-timer Isaac Webb, First Born is the latest in the neurotic direct-to-video thriller genre that is more enjoyable when you know less about just what's going on.  As you begin to piece together the pieces of this convoluted puzzle, it all becomes unhinged, leading to a bit of a hangover once it's all done, making you wish you could have the previous 90 minutes of your life back.  The problems here don't really end with the surprise ending, but rather, it's the lack of explanation for all of the red herrings that came before, and there are some very substantial ones that really should have been addressed.

Webb certainly delivers on atmosphere, but the contrivances and coincidences certainly are ratcheted up to the utmost degree, to the point where things threaten to become farcical.  The look and feel of the film are sterile, with another thriller that seems to lack personality and the human element, merely pushing forward the incessant need to play the audience, rather than to tell a story.  Some viewers may actually enjoy the creepy images and haunting vibe enough to forgive such an implausible suspenser, but I'm wagering these viewers firmly reside in the "I'll watch anything that looks intense on the video store shelves, no matter how cheap it must be, and hey, I really like that Elisabeth Shue, she was so great in Adventures in Babysitting, and oh, I won't pay attention to just what's going on because I just love being creeped out, because I don't like to stop and think for even a minute, and it has a cute doggie in it, I think his name was Barfer, and, and, and, ooh I could just go on forever, he's so adorable" camp.  Basically, leave your brain at the door -- you won't be needing it once you press play.

 Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo