Review: Redcaps of Unwelcome remind us who the real monsters are


Director: Jon Wright

Cast: Hannah John-Kamen, Douglas Booth and Colm Meaney

Warner Bros. UK & Ireland / Ingenious Media


I’m not much of a meme person.

Don’t get me wrong, I find some funny. Some go over my head as maybe my Gen-X self is just getting a little too long-in-the-tooth to be hip, but there is one that stands out for me.

It features a Great Dane, with iconic blue collar, looking pensive with the Mystery Machine in the background. He’s under a dreary grey sky — Dickensian if you must — and is the real-life version of Scooby Doo.


Forgive the lengthy preamble, but you’ll get the feeling of “humans are the real monsters” after watching Unwelcome. It stars Hannah John-Kamen (Ant-Man and the Wasp) as Maya, a soon-to-be mom who escapes the darker side of London with her nebbish husband Jamie only to land in the darkness of Ireland’s countryside.

They get shaken up in the film’s prologue, as a group of street thugs lay into Jamie and then drag a hiding Maya out of the bathroom, with her pregnancy test still fresh.

Fade to black. Jamie and Maya are travelling through the idyllic greenery of Ireland. Jamie’s great-aunt Maeve has bequeathed him a dilapidated home that has an infestation problem.

By Infestation, I mean folkloric little people known as redcaps, or Far Darrig. It appears that Maeve made a deal with the little people long ago; in exchange for something very dear to her: a firstborn child.

Just as they were shaken up in London, Jamie and Maya are dogged by the family they hire to renovate their new digs. With shades of Straw Dogs, the volatile “Daddy” Whelan, and his rough-around-the-edges brood, taunt the Londoners and fail to conceal their contempt for the English.

Then there is the old-world superstition, which underscores the relationship between naive city slicker and superstitious country folk.

The Whalens take much delight in tormenting the couple, including Jamie, who is a far more maddening version of David Sumner, Dustin Hoffman’s character from the Sam Peckinpah version of Straw Dogs.

With her lily-livered hubby getting all sobby, Maya, fully pregnant, makes a deal with the redcaps, repeating the past; a constant theme in Unwelcome.

As the film’s tagline says, “Break the promise. Pay the price”, you know once the denouement rolls in, someone has to settle up with the piper.

Throughout history, there have been tales of creatures that deceive us. They offer us fame and fortune or a way out of a crisis but snatch our freedom away like a self-proclaimed regency with indentured servants. The Grimm brothers had Rumpelstiltskin, and director Jon Wright has the redcaps.

Irish folktales drip with gloom, which make them perfect for horror movies, as we see from the changeling from You Are Not My Mother and the Unseelie fairy-inspired creature in The Hallow. The redcaps in Unwelcome are a welcomed addition, holding regency over those who ask favour of them.

However, Maya gets the edge on her new regents, and after plenty of bloodshed, she changes her fate, giving the audience a blood-drenched WTF moment.

Unfortunately, for the milquetoast Jamie, he remains the same, only managing to stumble into fatherhood thanks to his take-no-prisoners wife.

Although the themes of urban vs. rural, superstition, folklore and irreverence to the past are rampant, it’s the natural cruelty of humans, and their willingness to sacrifice anything, that is the beating heart of Unwelcome.

It’s a great tale that reveals the secrets of Ireland’s lush greenery, and a must-watch creature feature that blends Straw Dogs with Gremlins. Give it a boo next St. Patrick’s Day.

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