Ethan Cutkosky in 'The Unborn' (Peter Iovino/Rogue Pictures)

Any movie that begins with a dog wearing a human mask is in serious trouble. If it wants to use that kind of dream snippet as a launch pad for exploring a demented and increasingly bizarre world, if it wants to embrace a loony aesthetic and milk it for all it's worth, wonderful. Deliver a solid, jolting, dazzling, surprising thriller, and all will be forgiven.

On the other hand, if it desperately wants to be taken seriously, if it proceeds in a very measured and sober manner, if it becomes increasingly sedate as it calmly plods through tedious exposition, then you have a mess on your hands.

The Unborn looks like a ghost story, feels like a ghost story, and kinda sounds like a ghost story, but it's dead on arrival. Because writer/director David S. Goyer has been associated with a host of projects with which I have a natural affinity, I was cautiously optimistic that his fourth directorial outing (after ZigZag, Blade: Trinity, and The Invisible) might reflect more of the pulpy, noirish mood and momentum that are evident in some of the best scripts for which he's been credited in part or in whole (Dark City, Blade II, Batman Begins).

Instead, all the juice has been drained from The Unborn. Not even the sight of the lovely, lean and fit Odette Yustman, whose last name became Yowza! when the trailer and pics first hit the net, can salvage the film from mediocrity.