Welcome to Knockout Horror and to another Horror Movie Review. Today we are taking a look at brand new Blumhouse horror movie – Unseen. Directed by Yoko Okumura. This is a genuinely fun horror with some serious girl power vibes. Focusing on a young, near blind, doctor attempting to escape an abusive boyfriend. Unseen takes a fairly common trope and adds a little twist.
Whereas this movie is based on some fairly frail logic. Unseen manages to achieve something that a lot of horror movies struggle with. It is actually fun. And that is what horror is supposed to be, right? It’s fine to have your serious movies like Let The Right One In. There’s always a place for deeper storytelling like in Speak No Evil. But sometimes, you just want to throw on a movie like M3gan and have a good time. Unseen fits that billing perfectly. Let’s take a look.
We put out a couple of Horror Movie Ending Explained articles each week. In these articles, we take a look at certain movies and explain the ending. It’s pretty straightforward really. Many of these films may have obvious endings with a few questions left unanswered. Others will be ridiculously confusing. We approach them all the same and try to clear things up.
Unseen has a fairly obvious ending. Still, there are a few little things that could use a bit of explaining. We are going to do just that in our Unseen Ending Explained Article. Naturally, you can’t explain an ending without spoilers. With this in mind, if you haven’t watched the movie. Stick around, read this review, watch the movie and come back. Our reviews are always spoiler free.
Unseen follows the story of young doctor Emily. Having found herself in an abusive relationship. Emily manages to escape her horrible living situation. Only to find herself kidnapped by her abuser, Charlie, while out jogging. Managing to fight back and injure Charlie. Emily, in the struggle, loses her glasses. Being almost completely blind without them. Emily attempts to escape but can barely see a thing. Her only hope is a phone call she makes to a random stranger. A stranger who now has to be Emily’s eyes and help her to survive.
So it goes without saying that this is a fairly loose plot. Feeling not unlike the recent crime thriller See For Me. Unseen steps on shaky ground with its rather ridiculous setup. Plot holes abound. You will likely find yourself asking a few questions regarding the film’s logic. Naturally a person can be legally blind but fairly capable with glasses. Still, plenty of questions come up surrounding this premise, alone.
When you throw in some of the other inconsistencies. Like the ignoring of speech assist on the phone Emily uses. Logical fallacies regarding the things Emily and Sam do using the phone. The fact that Emily never uses the back camera. And the rather noteworthy ineptitude of our antagonist. It all starts to feel a little low rent. But Unseen is worth more than the sum of its parts, as we will see.
Dismissing Unseen there would be doing yourself a disservice. The shaky premise and rather poorly thought out plot is only a minor issue here. Unseen is actually a ton of fun. It’s a real throw back to when horror movies made you laugh. Unseen manages to be genuinely enjoyable in a number of ways. Firstly, the dynamic here is rather interesting. You don’t see too many movies set up like this. The characters communicate via video call. Sam acts as Emily’s eyes via the phone’s camera. She relates threats to Emily and the pair talk about life. It’s an interesting setup and easy to engage in.
The fact that Sam is attempting to spot for Emily, via a camera. Really does a nice job of adding some decent tension. Sam sometimes spots things that aren’t there. Other times she is a little late to assist Emily resulting in problems. It’s all rather nicely done. Emily always feels like a very vulnerable protagonist. Don’t get me wrong; if she had her glasses I am sure the tides would turn. She is seriously tough and full of fight. But without her glasses she is at a disadvantage.
We see the world through Emily’s eyes, at times, helping us to understand her issues. Sam, who suffers from anxiety, has her own problems to overcome. As well as a number of inconveniences occurring at the place where she works. This means there is always something going on. Unseen rarely lets up and it deserves praise for this.
Too many horror movies are content to smell the roses. This works perfectly well in some cases. In movies that should be getting from one scene to the next, however. It can feel like unnecessary padding. Little that happens in Unseen feels like padding. It keeps things moving along at a very nice pace.
Another noteworthy thing about Unseen is the relationship between our protagonists. Both Emily and Sam are tremendously likeable people. Emily has had a difficult life. Suffering from vicious bullying due to her race and wearing of glasses. She has grown up determined to succeed. This has come, somewhat, at the cost of her relationship with family. Forced to place work and study first. She feels as though she has drifted away from her mother. An interesting and relatable backstory. Especially for children of mixed heritage or those who grew up with a disability.
Sam has had an equally turbulent time. Again, a victim of cruel bullying. She is now working a dead end job and suffering from tremendous levels of anxiety. She has spent time caring for her ailing mother, putting her own life on hold. Now that it is time to get herself back out into the world. She feels incapable and overwhelmed. It is Emily’s insistence that she provides assistance to her. That forces Sam to confront and address her issues. Leading to the movie acting as something of a recovery story for both characters.
The pair have to face up to their demons as well as attempt to escape Charlie. It’s pretty corny stuff and overly familiar, let’s be real. But the execution is really well done. As mentioned above, these two are fantastic. Both are tremendously relatable for many people and both are super tough. Their interactions are both humorous and, at times, rather touching.
There are some genuine moments of effective emotional connection between the pair. Don’t get me wrong. The movie never leans too heavily into schmaltz. But there are some heart warming moments here. On top of that, it is amazing to see two incredibly strong women in lead roles. You absolutely want to see Emily escape and to see Sam deal with her issues at the gas station. You want them to come out on top.
When Emily is hurling abuse at Charlie. It’s hard not to smile and want to see her give it to him harder. When Sam is confronted by the hilariously obnoxious Carol and her awful boss. You want her to push her anxiety aside and stand up for herself. These are characters that are incredibly easy to invest in. They are presented as strong in spite of their flaws, as well. Which is very nice to see. Emily and Sam feel human.
Unseen, perhaps, risks leaning a little too far into silliness at points. The antics taking place at the gas station may not be for everyone. I, personally, really enjoyed them and found much of it to be hilarious. Sam is a naturally funny character. Evidently having been walked all over most of her life. She is almost at a point of acceptance with it. She expects it and it doesn’t rattle her as much as it should. This leads to some fantastically comical reactions.
An absolutely obnoxious lady, Carol, arrives at the gas station on a number of occasions. Harassing and bullying Sam, much like the kids at school did to her years ago. She causes more than a little trouble for her. Sam’s dealings with Carol are legitimately funny. They also act as something of a metaphor for her growing confidence throughout the movie. Still, some people are likely to feel a little thrown off base by some of these scenes. Events towards the end become a little bit farcical. Some will enjoy this, others not so much.
The last fifteen minutes, in particular, act as something of a crescendo for the movie’s comedy. Playing off in an almost slapstick manner. The escalation of events borders on the ridiculous. While this is going on, the horror elements are reaching their peak too. Upping the tension and building to one final blow off. Whether these two disparate elements mesh together is up for debate. I enjoyed these scenes a lot. Some people will likely find it hard to engage in the tension. Instead finding that the comedy detracts from the tension a little. Still, it’s perfectly fitting given the context of the movie. Unseen stays true to its roots throughout.
As far as horror elements go. Unseen has some decent moments of genuine tension. As mentioned above. The phone based presentation really leads to some effective scenes. Sam struggles to see what is going on in the distance. She sometimes misidentifies paths. Sometimes she is distracted which leads Emily into danger. All the while Emily is almost completely incapable of seeing. I can’t help but feel like a little was left on the table here, though.
Charlie is a completely incompetent antagonist. There are moments where his ineptitude robs the movie of some palpable tension. He never feels all that threatening and doesn’t really manage to do much of anything. He is like the result of turning Ross from Friends into a horror villain. Though I imagine if you did that it would probably be scarier. The entire movie would be about mental abuse, shagging students and gaslighting. Charlie’s just not that great of a villain. This isn’t helped by the fact that Emily is a seriously bad ass woman.
Despite this, the movie benefits from that dynamic as much as it suffers for it. The ineptitude of Charlie allows Sam and Emily to build on their relationship. It also allows us to really invest in our protagonist. Especially in scenes where she fights back. I wouldn’t make Emily more vulnerable to increase the tension. She is too good of a protagonist. Horror fans looking for some serious scares may be disappointed, though.
The movie does tend to fall into tropes, at times, as well. It can be incredibly predictable. Emily screams and grunts at the top of her voice, without consequence. Hide and seek scenes play out exactly as you might expect. You will see things coming from a mile off. It’s all very familiar horror stuff. There is even a big creepy barn. Don’t expect anything new here. Still, it isn’t as big of a problem as it sounds. Unseen is enough fun to ignore a lot of these issues. Just enjoy the character dynamics and fun set pieces.
Acting is fantastic throughout. Midori Francis, as Emily, is brilliant. She brings a great deal of likeability to the character. Managing to make Emily feel vulnerable without ever giving up her strengths. She is fantastic in scenes where she is fighting back against Charlie. She also has excellent comedy timing. I really appreciated her willingness to get down and dirty. Crawling around in the mud and tripping over things. It was a great physical performance.
Jolene Purdy, as Sam, is equally great. Again, perfect with the comedy timing. She brings a sense of humanity to her character. You easily buy into her mental struggles and want her to overcome them. I loved seeing Missi Pyle here as the maniacal Carol. She does a brilliant job and is brutal in her line delivery. Some of her insults are genuinely scorching. Fantastic work from the veteran actor. She, evidently, completely understood what the director was going for.
Nicholas Parsons has a brief role as Sam’s boss. Despite not getting much screen time and being played entirely for laughs. This is a fun performance and sets the theme of the movie up early. Michael Lane, as Charlie, is absolutely fine. Despite Charlie being a garden variety bad guy. Lane does a pretty nice job of making him feel a little different from normal villains. He is pathetic and his motivations are ridiculous. But, at the same time, perfectly lampoon certain people’s specific issues.
Cinematography is decent. Unseen can feel a little low budget at times but it isn’t a huge problem. The outdoor location is nice offering a range of scenery. Some times we are in the middle of the woods. Other times we are in fields or near a cliff. The camera captures it well and it all looks pretty nice. There is a nice use of split scenes to represent events taking place in different locations. These always work well and aren’t overused. Scenes inside the gas station are creatively filmed. Sometimes presented in a comical, askew, manner.
Yoko Okumura’s direction is excellent throughout. She presents the movie stylishly and with fantastic pacing. Unseen rarely lets up. featuring a tremendous balance of story building, horror and comedy. The movie can be highly stylised at times but this doesn’t feel out of place. Shot setups are creative and there is some decent use of natural landscape to build tension. It’s really nicely done.
Unseen is a seriously fun horror movie. Focusing on the story of a blind woman escaping her abuser. This is a movie that never takes itself too seriously. Despite lacking in tension and engaging a little too heavily in horror tropes. The issues here are easy to push aside. Well paced and featuring two relatable and likeable protagonists. This is a horror movie that simply wishes to entertain. Something that many horror movies have forgotten how to do.
Managing to be hilarious for much of its length. As well as touching and heart felt. Unseen doesn't ask too much of the viewer. It's simply great fun and easy to enjoy. Well acted and featuring a number of hilarious scenes. The mix of horror and comedy may not be for everyone. Still, if you don't expect to much, there is plenty to like. Unseen manages to overcome its flaws. Providing an engaging and enjoyable horror experience.