Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane is one of those movies that reviewers always fear. This is a psychological thriller, full of twists and turns, therefore it’s quite a challenge to assess it without falling into a spoiler-filled pit.
I will try, though.
Basically, we follow Sawyer (Claire Foy) as she tries to live her life while struggling with something that happened to her in the past and it’s still haunting. When she goes to a support group for people who underwent a certain trauma, Sawyer ends up being locked in a mental institution, where her inner fears will meet with a concrete, deadly threat.
The story, despite the numerous plot twists I won’t spoil, is rather unoriginal (Shutter Island anyone?). However, Unsane is one of the first movies to be filmed entirely on an iPhone (from what I understand, the very first one was Tangerine, 2015), which makes it extremely unconventional and unique.
The way Unsane looks is the first aspect that’s worth delving into: the movie looks constantly odd and unique, like anything I’ve seen before. I don’t know if I like the cinematography, so to speak, but for sure it makes the movie stand out and, to me, provides the audience with a creepy, threatening atmosphere that you don’t see every day in horror flicks.
Filming a 98-minute-long movie through iPhones’ camera is an impressive task when you think about it: the editing takes longer, the translation to the silver screen demands a massive effort and creating effects isn’t as simple as it is with other devices. Sure, there are downsides such as the fact that, in Unsane, the camera-work is all over the place and the movie, albeit very realistic and almost first person-esque, looks a bit cheap.
Yet, in all honesty, this filming technique is definitely a gimmick, a selling point Soderbergh utilised to bring more people to watch his movie. Does it matter when the film is good, though?
I would say it doesn’t and, as I hinted to before, the story here is great: it nicely unfolds as the runtime goes by, it’s never too obscure nor too basic and simple (other than one exposition scene that really felt out of place), it’s gripping and intense.
Also, the performances are all-around terrific: Claire Foy is simply fantastic, Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project, 1999) plays a very daring role and is extremely believable and scary, Juno Temple and Jay Pharoah are great as well, as it’s everybody else in Unsane. There is also a cameo, about halfway through the movie, that’s quite effective and crowd-pleasing.
Other than a few technical complaints, all the major issues I have with Unsane involve spoilers, so I’m sorry but I can’t (or I’d better say I don’t want to) delve into those. Very simply put, the movie requires a high degree of suspension of disbelief, since there are a few devices to carry the plot along that don’t feel realistic nor even plausible.
Even there, however, I feel compelled to praise the film because it’s really rare (at least for me) to be on the edge of my seat despite plot-holes and shortcomings.
Before I conclude, I just want to say something to indie filmmakers and horror directors, hoping some of them is among the 10 thousand people a month who read my blog: if Steven Soderbergh, a well-known filmmaker who made financially successful films during his whole career, went out of his way to make a low budget, ballsy indie horror flick, what are you afraid of? Stop making the same flicks, filled with the same tiresome tropes, over and over again! Go out there, be creative, dare to offend and be controversial. Creativity and originality are make or break cinema traits, don’t be afraid of trying.
With all that said, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated Unsane and I’d really recommend it despite its flaws.
Click the follow button to subscribe to HorrorWorld&Reviews
Follow me on Twitter @Horroreviews: https://twitter.com/horroreviews
My review is also available on IMDb – Unsane