The Untelling Poster 1

The Untelling (2019) Review

Starting out as a short filmed in 2012 and gradually expanded in post-production through 2019, writer/director Russell Whaley’s (DisOrientation, Hell on Cotton Hill) The Untelling opens with travel footage occasionally interrupted by what appear to be brief memories of the unseen traveller. 

After a drive up one of those roads that could be anywhere in the American Northeast, the film was actually shot in Maryland, Henry Scott (John Livesay, The Amazing Mr. Moji, Running to Live, Living to Run) arrives at his destination, the house that belonged to his late grandfather (Tom Lyle, Time Refugees, Sedan De Villain).

Once there he’s almost immediately greeted by Debbie (Hillary Mazer, WNUF Halloween Special, The American Werewolf Project) a real estate agent who tells him the house only needs a few things done to get it ready for sale. One of those is finding the key to unlock what was the old man’s room, a prospect that visibly unsettles Henry.

The Untelling 3

Of course, this is a fairly common starting point for a genre film, and it’s not long before doors start closing on their own, children’s voices can be heard, ghostly figures glide down hallways, and there’s this red ribbon…

The Untelling was made for around $2000, using a small cast, and takes place almost entirely within the house and the woods around it. Obviously, this isn’t going to be a film full of effects and fancy production values. What effects we do get are more in the way of distorted shots that seem to be mirroring Henry’s state of mind.

Other effects such as splashing water superimposed over scenes or what look like dust specks in the air seem to be a hint of some sort but Whaley isn’t giving any hints as to what. Which is a bit of a problem with the film as a whole.

The Untelling 1

Whaley manages to create a creepy vibe throughout the film, but the lack of any points of reference can be frustrating. Most of it is explained at the end, but a few clues, so I didn’t feel totally lost would have helped. I mean, I’m still not sure what was up with that clown (John Howard Whaley) which actually put me more in mind of The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland than anything else.

This was probably the result of turning what was originally a seventy-eight-minute film into a nine-minute short that played festivals and then back into a seventy-minute feature without extensively reworking and reshooting everything. A couple of long hiatuses between updates hint at possible frustrations on the director’s end as well.

The Untelling 2

Credit John Livesay with holding much of the film together as the tormented Henry. He’s not only in almost every scene, he has the only major role in the film. Everyone else such as his neighbour Sam (David Bayles, Murder at High Tea, The Imminent Expiration of Seth Dodson) just has a couple of scenes here and there. Judith Grannas (DC Noir, Browncoats: Redemption) does stand out as a shrewish home care nurse, and sharp-eyed viewers may recognize genre veteran Jessica Felice (7th Day, Vampires: Rise of the Fallen) in a small role.

If you’re looking for a mood piece that’s more unsettling than outright frightening, The Untelling should fill the bill nicely. It’s not the kind of film that will gross you out or make you jump, but it may well have you looking over your shoulder if you hear a noise in the dark.

The Untelling is currently available on Tubi. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more information and announcements of availability where Tubi isn’t available. You can also check FilmTagger for something similar if Tubi isn’t available to you.

Where to watch The Untelling
Our Score
Scroll to Top