Arrow in the Head reviews the Blumhouse thriller Unseen, starring Jolene Purdy and Midori Francis. Directed by Yoko Okumura
PLOT: A nearsighted woman being pursued through the woods by her homicidal ex has to have a stranger on a video call try to guide her to safety.
REVIEW: Two of the best thrillers to be released in the last few years were John Hyam’s Alone and Randall Okita’s See for Me – and if you were to drop those two movies into a Mixmaster, the resulting concoction would probably be something very much like Yoko Okumura’s feature directorial debut Unseen. Like Alone, Unseen is about a woman escaping from the clutches of a killer who has taken her to a cabin in the woods, running off through the forest in hopes of finding help and civilization. The women in both movies even end up taking a plunge into a river. And as in See for Me, the endangered woman in this movie has vision issues (in this case, she is extremely nearsighted), so she has to get on a video call with a third party and hope they can guide her to safety. So Unseen is quite reminiscent of Alone and See for Me, but at the same time it has its own style and quirkiness that makes it a unique viewing experience. Even if you have already seen those other movies, Unseen is worth checking out on its own merits.
The story scripted by Salvatore Cardoni and Brian Rawlins begins with Florida gas station cashier Sam (Jolene Purdy) dialing a wrong number right before reporting for her shift. This misdial connects her with Emily (Midori Francis), a Michigan doctor who has been abducted by her ex-boyfriend Charlie (Michael Patrick Lane), who has taken her out to a cabin in the woods with the intention of killing her. He says it’s the only way he can properly move on from her. Okumura and the writers don’t waste any time getting the action rolling; Sam makes her accidental call to Emily’s phone in the very first scene, and Emily exits the cabin – without her much-needed glasses – at almost exactly the ten minute mark. Unseen is all about the adventure Emily and Sam go on through the woods, together but at long distance, and that adventure takes us through the rest of the film’s perfectly short and quick 76 minute running time.
If you’re wondering, the movie does give an acceptable explanation for why Emily is guided through the woods by the random person who accidentally called her number instead of a 911 operator (and yes, 911 is called before the gas station clerk is called). That allows the viewer to just go with it as the at-first reluctant and overwhelmed Sam tries to help the beleaguered woman who’s roughly 1000 miles away from her escape from a dangerous situation. And Emily isn’t the only one who has to worry about her safety. As Emily makes her way through the woods with Charlie tracking her, Sam has unpleasant dealings with a customer, Missi Pyle as a wealthy woman who is the ultimate “Karen” even though her name is actually Carol. And the gun-toting Carol’s even-bigger-gun-toting Hubby Wubby.
While Sam and Emily are both down-to-earth characters we come to like and care about as the story plays out, the villains in the movie lean toward the ridiculous. Charlie only slightly so; he stills comes off as a serious threat. But the people Sam has to deal with at the gas station go way over-the-top, bringing a quirky humor into the picture. It didn’t fully work for me, but it wasn’t off-putting. I was too invested in what was going on with Sam and Emily for Carol and her cohorts to turn me away.
Jolene Purdy and Midori Francis both deliver great performances, and the quiet moments between the thrills allow them to bounce dialogue off of each other that gives us a deeper understanding of both of their characters. When the thrills kick in, we’re rooting for them every step of the way, wanting Emily to overcome the threat of Charlie and Sam to be able to stay on the phone with her despite all the obstacles Carol and other circumstances in the gas station put in her way.
Unseen is making its way into the world as part of the eight-movie deal Blumhouse made with the network that was formerly known as Epix and is now known as MGM+. Whether you catch it on digital, VOD, or when it reaches MGM+, it’s worth seeking out. It’s 76 minutes of a good time watching two likeable characters deal with bad situations, and it’s a nice showcase for the talents of Purdy and Francis. With this, Okumura has gotten her feature directing career off to a solid start.
Unseen will be receiving a digital and VOD release on March 7th, and will be reaching MGM+ in May.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/unseen-review/