There isn’t very much movie infused into this carnival of tropes that, despite giving off the idea that it would at least be an entertaining watch, had me reaching for a pillow to scream into. Shudder’s latest supernatural thriller, “The Unheard,” directed by Jeffrey A. Brown (who also made a tad better Shudder original back in 2019, namely “The Beach House”) is scary alright. That is, if you take note of the horror you feel that films like this are still inflicting on the unsuspecting audience, and that too by major production houses. But enough about my mountain-climbing ordeal of sitting through two hours’ worth of a dull-as-a-dishwasher narrative with a climax that even someone who has never seen a movie before (somehow) will be able to see coming a mile off. Let’s get on with what goes down in the eerie life of a disabled young adult.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘The Unheard’?
What I can only presume is that the film’s proclivity towards a manipulative, breadcrumbing opens with what will later come off as an unnecessarily detailed yet impressively scientific way—for what it’s worth—of introducing the experimental procedure that Chloe is about to undergo. Her hearing ability and her mother both left her for good around the same time when she was 8 years old. Her meningitis, which was likely caused by little Chloe touching an infected, dead bird, as seen in the recurrent flashbacks, stripped her of the ability to hear and left her with just a voice of her own and the memories of hearing voices. A clinical trial finds an eager Chloe hoping to get her originally irreversible deafness vanquished by a stem cell-associated retrovirus that will, as Dr. Lynch counts on, restore the damaged auditory nerve fibers.
Her dad, being swamped with work, leaves Chloe to fend for herself in her old house with less-than-bare-minimum utilities. She’s primarily here to help her dad sell the house that holds the memories of a loss that they never had the privilege of getting closure for. Ever since her mother’s overwhelmingly absurd disappearance left Chloe’s life with a black hole of longing after she arose from her coma, the only voice relentlessly echoing in her head has been that of her mother. It’s this very voice that Chloe felt compelled to drown out with the noise of the world, and therefore, she opted for an experimental procedure and made the naive mistake of not disclosing that she’s on prescription antidepressants to her ENT, Dr. Lynch.
Their old family friend and ex-cop Hank makes good on his promise of lending her a helping hand and fixes the hot water supply in Chloe’s house. What Chloe missed the boat about while Hank was still there was asking him to take a look at the television set that plays more spasmodic static than it does the scenes from her camcorder-recorded memories of mirthful adolescence. Chloe is thrilled to realize that her hearing has been completely restored, just as rapidly as it eluded her in the past. But that gain comes with a creepy price to pay as the voice of her mother is only heightened and becomes clearly audible through her floors and the TV. Crippled by a severe migraine, incessant ringing in her ears, and blood dripping out of them, Chloe seeks the help of Dr. Lynch, who goes through convoluted stages of sympathizing, calling her out for lying about her medical history, and going AWOL after a chaotic night of Chloe making a move on her doctor, spazzing out, throwing up, and passing out.
What’s Going On In Chloe’s Locality?
If there’s Cape Cod in the mix, you can bet just about anything on a notorious set of crimes riding the coattails of the pivotal trope. In the case of ‘The Unheard,’ Chloe’s peninsular town has been holding in the horror of the disturbing disappearances of multiple women, including her own mother. We even get an alarming front-row view of a girl being snatched into a car and having her throat slit open by a black-gloved hand. The unsolvability of the missing persons’ cases, be it due to a lack of diligence on the part of law enforcement or just the general nonchalance of people, has been getting to Chloe, who has had her own anxieties afflicting her mind ever since she has seen silhouettes of people in the unoccupied house across from her own.
Meeting an old friend that she used to play with when she was a kid isn’t a sweet reunion for Chloe, who picks up on the peculiarities of the family dynamic when Joshua takes her home to meet his mom. What solidifies Chloe’s inkling that something alarming is up with Joshua is when she runs into Hank and gets to know that Joshua is suspected of kidnapping and killing the neighbors’ dogs. Repeatedly sneaking up on Chloe when she’s out and about does nothing to help Joshua’s case.
What’s The Deal With Joshua?
Indomitable insomnia torments Chloe as she grapples with having her sense of what’s real and what’s not fly the coop. Having a life devoid of purpose leaves Chloe with all the time in the world to quench her curiosity about the house beyond the marshland. What she lays her eyes on when she breaks in is an eerily plastic-tarp-wrapped house and a tripod beside the window that overlooks her house. That’s all it takes for Chloe to put two and two together and deduce that someone has been keeping an eye on her.
It’s no surprise that the first—and perhaps the only—suspect on the list is Joshua. When she barges into his gloomy home in his absence, Chloe is bewildered to find a room with multiple screens showing static and giving out a buzzing hum. Before she can even begin to comprehend the purpose of the puzzling setup of computer screens, Joshua comes back and practically forces her to listen to the frequencies of the paranormal realm that he’s been capturing. Ever since Joshua has seen inexplicable sightings in Chloe’s house, he has been on a self-assigned mission of videotaping the house and recording the sound it gives off. The sound may not affect Joshua all that much, but it gives Chloe a splitting headache, and her ears ring to a massive extent before starting to bleed. On the footage that Joshua has covertly acquired, Chloe even sees an unnatural sign of what looks like an apparition trying to get her attention.
‘The Unheard’ Ending Explained – Who Killed Chloe’s Mother? Does The Spirit Of Chloe’s Mother Save Her Life?
While her mind is occupied with looking for clues that incriminate Joshua, there’s one person Chloe forgot to look at, and it is that person’s couch she wakes up on on a stormy night. The first telltale sign that there’s something off about Hank is his inviting a 20-year-old girl to his secluded boat for a drink. Now that Hank is right in front of her and she can see right through his heinous design of keeping her locked up, Chloe begins seeing him for the predator that he really is. She fakes getting sick and locks herself in his bathroom to give herself time to chalk up an escape plan. Hank has already ignored the calls Chloe’s been getting from her dad, and now to isolate her from any concerned parties, he wrecks her phone and waits for her to come out. Chloe lets the water run so as to drown the sound of her opening the window and fleeing from the maw of the monster.
By the time Hank gets a whiff of what Chloe has been up to in the bathroom and bursts in, she has already made her way through the murky, rain-soaked woods to take shelter in an outhouse. Knowing that Hank is still out there looking for her is terrifying enough for Chloe, but seeing the ghastly corpses of women suspended from hooks as though they were animal carcasses in a butcher shop makes Chloe’s heart sink in acute fear. All the women who have gone missing from the area, including Chloe’s doctor, Sophie Lynch, were abducted and brutalized by the sociopathic ex-cop. Before Hank can get to her in the outhouse, Chloe makes a run for it and hides in her own home. Keeping her cool and hoping to talk it out doesn’t work out for Chloe when Hank catches up to her. He quickly renders her unconscious and hauls her back to her room. If it wasn’t already obvious, Hank’s horrid eyes finding a reflection of her mother on Chloe’s face ascertains the fact that he was behind her disappearance and possible murder.
Stopping him from going further, Joshua turns up to check on Chloe and gets caught up in Hank’s psychotic exertion. The poor guy is stabbed over and over with a box cutter and left to bleed out on the side of the room. Upstairs, Chloe has garnered enough strength to get her wrists free from the zip tie, and she gets hold of the knife that was underneath her bed. She swiftly pounces on Hank when he comes into her room, puts the knife through his shoulder, and bolts out before pulling the knife out, as any heroine is supposed to do in a movie where they get a shot at murdering the psychotic killer and don’t, right? By the time Chloe has discovered she can’t resuscitate Joshua, Hank has pulled the knife out and is ready to slice into Chloe.
Every odd word that comes out of his mouth tells of the deranged psychosexual drive that has turned him into a marionette of his horrific impulses. Just as Hank is about to get his hands on Chloe, the static on the TV gets delirious in its effort to torment Hank’s auditory perception and leaves him debilitated. As the TV plays out the recording of Hank cornering and killing her mother, Chloe grabs hold of the knife and slices his throat open. The look on her face is of the calming yet morose realization that her mother’s spirit has been calling out to her to let her in on the vicious truth of her disappearance and death. She didn’t want Chloe to walk through life weighed down by the trauma of being abandoned by her own mother and never getting an explanation for it. For the first time, Chloe answers the calling of her mother, piercing the veil between the two worlds. The smile on Chloe’s face at the end of “The Unheard” suggests the comfort that has embraced Chloe in the aftermath of a supremely revelatory ordeal.
“The Unheard” is a 2023 mystery drama film directed by Jeffrey A. Brown.