If you’ve seen one bullied-kid-gets revenge tale, you’ve seen them all, eh? Taking obvious inspiration from films like Carrie and Tamara, The Unhealer presents a fresh spin while remaining consistent with a style that evokes 90’s horror. Director Martin Guigui and writers J. Shawn Harris and Kevin E. Moore find the dark humor in one teen’s tale of torment and his subsequent quest for vengeance.
At Stinson High School, all the bullies call Kelly (Elijah Nelson) “a human garbage disposal” due to his bizarre eating disorder. Called “pica,” this disorder involves the eating of random objects, like Cup of Noodles packaging, pencil erasers and really anything with a non-nutritional value. Suffice to say, this does not make him popular among the student body. A grizzled healer, Pflueger (Lance Henriksen), who performs miracles and asks only for donations, is recruited by Kelly’s mother (Natasha Henstridge) to help. Pflueger’s special shamanistic powers allow him to take on the pain of others and heal himself, essentially becoming immortal. The session goes awry, bestowing the strange gift upon the unsuspecting and vulnerable Kelly. A tragic accident occurs—a prank gone wrong—that leaves Kelly hungry for revenge on those who have wronged him and his family.
Black humor keeps things light and engaging at all times, even before they turn sinister. Pflueger’s strange encounter with Kelly that results in his untimely death allows Henricksen to dial up the weird factor. When one of the bullies complains about having a concussion and not being able to play a game, his father remarks: “you’re going! I didn’t raise no pussies.” It is a comical display of great parenting at its finest, which seems to be a trend throughout. None of these parents act as particularly strong role models, and they surely don’t have the best interests of their children at heart.
Watching Kelly experiment with his powers is when The Unhealer is at its most fun. The film is so playful with the audience. A daydream that culminates in a real-life three-way orgasm between Kelly and two girls happens in class. It is an entirely relatable scenario for the horny teenage mind. Every bit of Kelly’s experience using his gifts is more exciting than the last. When the horror kicks in, the nasty gore holds nothing back. We get faces melted with acid, heads exploded underneath a car tire and drills to the thigh. My favorite kill is a two-for-one special near the end, which is just as shocking as it is satisfying. I appreciated going for the jugular where the violence is concerned. It feels every bit as justified as I hoped considering how evil the bullies come across.
I had such a great time watching The Unhealer, and I see so much further untapped potential for sequels (or even prequels, possibly exploring the origins of the powers?). It might not be a perfect movie, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t bring me back to a simpler time with the horror movies of my youth. Bolstered by a young talented cast, suspenseful action, and jet-black humor, The Unhealer is pure popcorn entertainment. Now go watch it, “you son of a dead bitch!”
The Unhealer hits Blu-Ray, DVD, digital, and on-demand on June 8th, 2021.