Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer/s: Jonathan Bernstein, James Greer
Starring: Joshua Leonard, Claire Foy, Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple, and more.
I first saw a trailer to the film “Unsane” on a Facebook ad of all places. I thought the film looked layered and interesting. Even then, another surprise came to my attention that director Steven Soderbergh shot this film using iPhone. Which is wholly an interesting concept that I was eager to see the result. With my first look being on a Facebook ad, my expectations were not sky high in the least bit. A few things caught my attention while others made me cautious. Nonetheless, it is time for “Unsane” to get Oberrated.
“A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear– but is it real or a product of her delusion?”
This was a solid outing for me with the “iPhone film”. “Unsane” played with a lot of elements and did them well. Yet they also managed to bug me with some (what can you expect? I have a very particular eye). For now, let us just jump right into it.
***Heavy plot spoilers***
“Unsane” most notably impressed me with its dual story lines. What I mean by this is the story line of Sawyer’s stalker being in the hospital that she is put in and also the story line of “is this hospital forcibly admitting sane patients or is Sawyer insane?”. These two story lines run parallel with each other and for me, this seems to be a rare occurrence, at least when it is done well. While the film delves deep into Sawyer’s battle with her stalker coming way too close to comfort with her while she is in the hospital. The battle to get Sawyer out of said hospital rages just as frequently as her battle against her stalker. The two stories ultimately unravel themselves for the audience and it is admirable to view.
***Light spoilers continue***
As for another positive note. This one goes to the genre and the overall feel of this film throughout its run time. Director Steven Soderbergh plays this genre to near perfection in regards to creating a creepy and claustrophobic film using both the environment of this hospital and also the magic he created with his iPhone camera. Let’s face it, hospitals are a creepy concept to a number of people. This fear is called Nosocomephobia. Now add on the concept of being forcibly admitted into one so the hospital can meet a quota? Now that is horrifying. With this creepy environment, Soderbergh uses camera angles that almost create an even more creepy and claustrophobic environment. The psychological thriller element is capitalized on with “Unsane”.
Although I praise and appreciate the iPhone camera for many reasons, I do, however, have some gripes with it. In some scenes you can see the camera shake while two characters are speaking with each other. I tried not to let this affect me too much but with my eye, if things are not clean and precise, I start to bug out a bit in regards to this topic. Or if the camera is simply supposed to do this. (I.e. found footage cam)
Performance wise, all the actors bring their A-game to “Unsane”. Sawyer Valentini played by Claire Foy is absolutely visceral in moments. However, I do have a bit of a problem with the her character, and her decision making within the film. Without spoilers, she is told exactly what needs to be done on multiple occasions yet she continues to do the exact opposite. A classic play of dumb decision making brought to us by yet another horror film. I will forever call these points out and “Unsane” falls victim to the Hollywood Horror character decision-making model. Is it this easy to be free of the horror? Yes. Will the character do that? Absolutely-F&*#ing not.
Another appreciative note goes to Joshua Leonard playing David Strine. The stalker vibe is turned to 150 percent and Joshua delivers a hell of a performance with this character.
While “Unsane” had a lot of elements going well for it, some other points impeded a super positive rating. I could not look past the typical horror movie decision-making as well as the way some of these scenes looked as it was shot by an iPhone. Overall, a positive outing for this psychological thriller. It will keep you on edge and curious. “Unsane” will be regarded as one of the better horror/thrillers by the year’s end.