As Telly (Moore) grieves for her plane crash victim son, her psychiatrist (Sinise) tells her she's never been a mother and has subconsciously created the memories herself. She becomes even more convinced her recollections are real when she meets Ash (West) whose child went missing on the same flight.
A good thriller is like a good striptease, tantalising the audience with gradual revelations that elicit an ever-growing sense of excitement before the final pay-off. Sadly, director Joseph Ruben's latest is more akin to a striptease conducted by a prude, a bashful bluestocking who prances around fully clothed until the show is almost over, before perfunctorily disrobing after the audience has lost interest.
In his breakthrough film, pulp-horror flick The Stepfather, Ruben blended a fizzy cocktail of mesmeric chills and alluring atmosphere. Here, his cinematic coalescings curdle as he tries to integrate cheap thrills with a sizeable chunk of numinous nonsense and a hokey riff on the concept of the eternal mother.
His embodiment of that eternal mother, Julianne Moore's Telly Paretta, proves a credible victim, at the outset at least: a parent mourning her lost son before her shrink informs her that she never had one - she had a miscarriage. And all those memories of a little boy playing in the park? They're products of post-traumatic syndrome. It's an engaging conceit: a mother mourning her phantom offspring while husband and friends prove almost dismissive in their attempts at emotional healing.
In The Forgotten, however, that idea becomes diluted as the plot gathers pace, hurtling Telly and her newfound friend Ash (West) into a tedious cycle of chases with FBI agents, while stubbornly refusing to impart any information about the fate of the kids, or why the Feds (who, incidentally, are rubbish; they can't even catch a lady in heels) are so ardent in their pursuit.
Until, that is, the final act, when the supernatural forces make their presence known (although it's never explained why super-beings are, in fact, as feeble as the Feds when it comes to defeating redheaded heroines). By this point, Ruben has offered such a lack of clarity that his thriller defies the term. Come the climax, when the chief villain suffers from a chronic case of Jabbering Killer Syndrome and finally reveals what the film is all about, most will have forgotten why they cared in the first place.
Attractive cinematography and an autumnal palette that matches the lead's barnet is small recompense for a premise neutered by supernatural shenanigans, which raise as many questions as they answer.