Unseen (2023) Review
The opening of Blumhouse’s latest film, Unseen, (not to be confused with The Unseen), introduces us to a pair of women. There’s Sam (Jolene Purdy, Donnie Darko, WandaVision) who we see catching a buzz before she starts her shift at a gas station convenience store. And with a boss like Isaac (Nicholas X. Parsons, We Have a Ghost, The Domestics) that’s probably the only way to get through a shift without throat-punching him.
Elsewhere, Emily (Midori Francis, Afterlife of the Party, Grey’s Anatomy) is waking up bound and without her glasses. She’s been kidnapped by her psychotic ex Charlie (Michael Patrick Lane, The Moderator, 7th Secret) who has decided the only way he can move on is to kill her.
The two of them have nothing in common, but that’s about to change as a desperate Emily accidentally dials Sam’s number as she tries to escape. Using the phone’s video Sam becomes her eyes, trying to guide her to safety before Charlie, or the phone’s battery, can stop her.
Now if this sounds vaguely familiar you may be thinking of last year’s See for Me, which also involves a woman guiding a sight-impaired woman to safety via a cell phone. That central idea is the only similarity between the two films though.
Director Yoko Okumura (50 States of Fright, Basic Witch) and writers Salvatore Cardoni (Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown, Gnomes & Trolls: The Secret Chamber) and Brian Rawlins (Penny & Paul, Lilly White) avoid that film’s mistake of making the characters all unlikeable and having the heroine coincidentally connect with the perfect person for the situation, right down to having the military training to tell her where to aim her gun.
Unfortunately, they make enough mistakes of their own to stop Unseen from coming off much better. After Emily makes her escape the film goes into low gear until the halfway mark. Charlie is out of the picture and we spend a lot of time listening to the two women chat. There’s also an excruciatingly unfunny segment with Missi Pyle (Bring It On: Cheer or Die, Galaxy Quest) as Carol, a customer who could best be described as Cruella DeVille’s sister Karen. She comes back later in the film in an even more ridiculous segment involving what looks like Tony Montana’s “Little Friend”.
Indeed, a lot of Unseen is so over the top and unbelievable it feels like it was meant to be a comedy rather than a serious thriller. It might have worked if the comedy had been toned down a bit and the thriller aspect more suspenseful. But Emily’s plight is put on the back burner too many times to focus on Sam’s rather less credible situation and never manages to produce the tension it should have.
There’s also a major problem with the way Unseen wraps up. One of its two threads ends with an ending that, in a better movie would be perfectly fitting and probably draw cheers. The other ends on a less satisfying note. But then in the film’s coda, the unresolved issues seem to have magically gone away with no mention of how or why. It’s as if they wanted to get in one final example of sloppy writing before the credits roll.
With its lower budget, direct-to-home video offerings Blumhouse frequently take chances on writers and directors, like Yoko Okumura, who are making their first feature. That’s given several deserving talents a break Unfortunately it can just as easily lead to films like Unseen, which should have lived up to its name.
Paramount Home Entertainment will release Unseen to VOD and Digital Platforms on March 7th. It will be available to stream on MGM+ in May.