What is horror? For Paul and Jessie Duncan (Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) it is the moment their 8 year-old son Adam is killed, leaving a void that would be better left unfilled. For Robert De Niro, as the man who can give them back their son by cloning Adam’s original cells, it’s being associated with one of the worst mainstream horror films (read: “suspense thriller”) in many a moon.
“Godsend” actually has a decent first hour. The subject of cloning a human is topical and fascinating to most of us. Certainly, given the film’s genre, we know it can’t possibly turn out good and, indeed, things start going awry the moment the new Adam passes the age when the old Adam died. There are some genuinely creepy moments, including a bathtub scene reminiscent of Kubrik’s “The Shining.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly the moment the film begins to fall apart.
It would have been smarter for writer Mark Bomback (who, curiously, is writing the new “Die Hard” film even though this is only his second screenplay) to stick with the general science from the first half. Instead, Bomback insults the intelligence of his audience by introducing pseudo-science that rips the film’s legs completely out from under it, and what was a creative and original thriller suddenly becomes the bastard child of “The Omen” and “The Good Son.” There is also a bizarre moment when Adam becomes Tony, Danny Torrance’s talking finger (again from “The Shining:” “Adam can‘t come out to play right now, Mrs. Duncan”), demonstrating the difference between acknowledging your influences and downright aping them.
Beyond the generic jump scenes, there is nothing here worth recommending. Despite the promise of the title and a couple of throw-away lines, the moral implications of what Paul and Jessie attempt are barely discussed (the horror/comedy classic “Re-Animator” had greater reservations about raising the dead than does this “serious” film; I kept hoping the character of Dan Cain would pop in and try to talk some sense into them.). There is no subtext, no deeper layers of meaning, and a bible set on fire is as subtle as the symbolism gets.
So what are we left with? De Niro’s performance as doctor/genetic researcher Richard Wells is solid, but the very fact that he’s in the movie works against it. Is Wells hiding something from the Duncans? Well, when is De Niro not hiding something? You won’t believe it when you see it. No, seriously, you won’t believe it when you see it. That’s the problem.
Pros: The first half builds some nice tension…
Cons: …The second half completely undoes it.
Review Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Rated PG-13 for violence including frightening images, a scene of sexuality and some thematic material.
Greg Kinnear (Paul Duncan)
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (Jessie Duncan)
Robert De Niro (Richard Wells)
Cameron Bright (Adam Duncan)
Merwin Mondesir (Maurice, Young Thug)
Sava Drayton (Young Thug #2)
Directed by: Nick Hamm
Viewing Format: Theatrical Release
(Originally published on HorrorWatch)