Even over the pandemic, Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions have kept busy. Last year, the studio produced and distributed a whopping 13 movies that included Halloween Ends, the Firestarter remake, and The Black Phone. And Blumhouse hasn’t slowed down in 2023. To date, the studio has already released the box office hit, M3gan, and There’s Something Wrong With the Children. Now the latest Blumhouse release, Unseen, has made its way to VOD platform. From director Yoko Okumura, making her feature-length directorial debut, Unseen finds a nearly blind woman relying on a stranger over FaceTime to help her escape an ex with murder on his mind.
When Florida gas station attendant Sam dials a wrong number, she accidentally connects with Emily, a woman who’s just escaped her murderous ex boyfriend. But Emily’s glasses were broken and now she’s lost in the woods, unable to see, with her ex hunting her down. Now she needs Sam to stay on a FaceTime call to be her eyes and guide her to safety.
Unseen a Fast-Paced, Inventive Thriller That Doesn’t Let You Think Too Long About Its Thin Story
There aren’t too many original ideas floating around. And Unseen follows on a similar premise as last year’s underrated thriller, See For Me. Nevertheless, director Yoko Okumura instantly sets her thriller apart with its zippy pacing and inventive style. Specifically, Unseen clocks in at a very trim 76 minutes in length. Okumura wastes little time kicking things into gear with a pretty harrowing escape for Emily. From that point onward, Okumura keeps her foot on the pedal, which likely helps minimize the distractions of some of the thriller’s more glaring plot contrivances. The need to rely on a FaceTime call with a stranger feels a bit flimsy. And Emily’s almost ‘Mr. Magoo’ level of blindness without glasses might otherwise have come off as a bit silly.
…Yoko Okumura instantly sets her thriller apart with its zippy pacing and inventive style.
But there isn’t much time to worry about these minor issues. Okumura packs in several stylish approaches to the material – including rapid editing, a bright colour palette, and split screens – to make a familiar premise feel fresh. There’s a real sense of urgency, particularly in the third act, that’s sustained even as things detour occasionally into the cartoonish. Though the middle act slows a bit, showing signs of the simple story, Okumura keeps things from dragging.
Unseen Finds a Surprisingly Emotional Payoff Amidst Its Action
Essentially what elevates Unseen is the performances of and relationship between its two lead characters. Despite its frenzied pacing, Okumura works the developing relationship between Sam and Emily into the thriller. And it’s this connection between the characters that heightens finale’s tension. Both Midori Francis and Jolene Purdy deliver the kind of earnest performances that make it easy to forgive increasingly implausible action. In fact, the amount of character development present in Unseen is a testament to the director, screenwriters Salvatore Cardoni and Brian Rawlins, and both actresses. Wait for the final scene that offers a touching emotional payoff.
Both Midori Francis and Jolene Purdy deliver the kind of earnest performances that make it easy to forgive increasingly implausible action.
If there’s a downside to Unseen, it’s that Cardoni and Rawlins rely too heavily on a cartoonish plot detour to set up much of the thriller’s tension. While Missi Pyle’s early appearance as an obnoxious ‘Karen’ of a customer plays well for a light laugh, Unseen elevates the character’s role in the climax as a tool to maximize suspense. Aside from being a convoluted way to generate an increasingly dire situation for Emily and Sam, it’s a wild tonal shift that threatens to undo the movie. The arrival of the customer’s machine gun-toting husband just doubles down on the problem. Both actors feel like they’re performing in a different movie.
Unseen Overcomes Familiarity, Delivers a Wild Thriller
If its premise is familiar, Unseen easily compensates with its breakneck pace and fun approach to its story. Okumura orchestrates plenty of suspense from start to finish and flashes some innovation while doing it. Though its tone often shifts to the silly, and occasionally cartoonish, Okumura doesn’t let it overtake the overall fun to be enjoyed here. And the emotional bond between its two main characters creates the kind of investment that overcomes these small issues. For its trim 76 minutes, Unseen is worthwhile adrenaline rush with an emotionally satisfying finale.