Unsane: A Timely Pulpish Thriller
Review by Aaron Haughton
Director Steven Soderbergh is back once again, following up last year's Logan Lucky with his unexpected entrance into B movie horror with Unsane, which gained some publicity for being shot entirely on an iPhone. Soderbergh effectively uses the genre to expose the corruptions and imperfections of American institutions, and it couldn't be more perfectly in sync with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. It might not knock your socks off or blow your hair back, but it's more than just Soderbergh's "shot on an iPhone" film; it's a thoroughly enjoyable and relevant thriller that also serves as a cautionary tale for discrediting women, especially at a time when we should be all ears.
Almost as surprising as Soderbergh taking on a fairly straight-laced horror film is the fact that the script comes from duo Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer, whose previous efforts include The Spy Next Door, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, and Max Keebler's Big Movie. This is clearly the apex of their careers thus far, but even then, all of Unsane's flaws circle back to the writing. Mainly, Bernstein and Greer give up the goods too soon, shattering any mysteries the film has going for it. This would likely be a far less entertaining film if placed into the hands of another director, but luckily, the film skates by and is elevated from the performances and Soderbergh's sleek direction and visual flourishes.
This is undeniably a Soderbergh film and has his fingerprints all over it. In some ways, it calls back to his more obscure films like Bubble and Schizopolis. He makes good use of foreground and framing, and his over the shoulder shots, which already make us feel like we're eavesdropping on character's conversations, are particularly effective considering there's a stalker at play. The film is also fitted with his signature blue and yellow washes, which create an effective mood for the film. For a film shot on iPhone, the cinematography is very sleek and helps give the film an interesting visual look.
Claire Foy gives a standout performance that shows her versatility and range. Foy, along with Jay Pharoah, give the film its vitality, and any scene with the two of them is a joy to watch. Juno Temple also deserves a shoutout for being wonderfully creepy and nailing the psych ward patient role.
Perhaps the most surprising and refreshing part of this whole film is just how funny it is. It manages to find a nice medium between comedy and horror, but the comedic blows land harder than any of its horrific moments, which become more apparent as the film nears its climax. In all the right ways, it harks back to the exploitation B movies of the 70s, which are apparent from the opening credits, the closing freeze frame, and the schlock and camp that is sprinkled throughout.
The score is minimal and only pops up a few times in the film, but is nonetheless one of the film's weaker attributes. It sounds like it was recorded in GarageBand and never really increases the tension or enhances the story in the way that the direction or performances do.
All in all, this is a solid entry into the modern B movie genre and goes to show you that behind every woman's crazy is a man who's likely driven her there. Unsane has restored my personal faith in Soderbergh, and I'm excited to see what he'll do next. The film is well worth the price of admission on laughs alone, and releases this Friday, March 23rd.
Rating: 3.5 outta 5.
What do you think? Are you excited for this? Do you think Soderbergh should go back into retirement? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!