"Is she or isn't she?" This is the question proposed in Unsane. This psychological horror film shot, edited, and directed by Steven Soderbergh, and written by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer. A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear--but is it real or a product of her delusion?
In July 2017, just before the release of Lucky Logan, it was announced that Steven Soderbergh had shot a film in secret, starring Claire Foy, Juno Temple, and Jay Pharoah. With a budget of $1.2 million, the film was shot in just ten days with a iPhone 7 Plus, in 4K, using the FiLMiC Pro app. Locations included Pomona, NY at the Summit Park Hospital that the production took over after it was recently closed.
Technically well-made and well-acted, Unsane is, unfortunately, a derivative and predictable story whose twists, turns, and frights have all been more effectively dealt before, and how it gives in to convention too often. It's all in good fun, really, though ninety-eight minutes may be less of this kind of fun than a mind can stand. The film sustains a creepy, gritty tension that draws you along without quite accelerating into outright terror. However, the terrors we see in the film are never as scary as they are tangible, but they are never so tangible as they are arbitrary. You might feel like you're in the company of a manic film student breathless showing you their graduate film with naive enthusiasm. You admire their enthusiasm, their creativity and technical ability, but in the end the experience is probably more satisfying for them than it is for you. The film undercuts its own authority by ham-fisting its protests into a banal plot structure and a totally undisciplined tonal register. Soderbergh's gritty and eerie new horror film, looks like something supreme horror master Jason Blum might have produced - if he'd applied the same mode of filmmaking he's applied to every single one of his productions. And that's meant as a compliment: This film is a demented riff on notable psychodrama and horror films like Shock Corridor (1963), and Changeling (2008). It's certainly the most deliriously deranged picture you're likely to see this year. It's psychodrama and horror as its most lurid and confrontational. An impressive pulp achievement. A pulpy potboiler of a jeremiad which aims to jangle as many nerves as possible in the shortest time available - subtlety be damned. While the film is about a woman who is not happy to remain removed from the world, not realizing that she, and others around her, are involved in something truly dreadful, many viewers will be all too willing to head for the exits. In the end, it's a fascinating low-budgeted film that screams for recognition.
Simon says Unsane receives: