Synopsis: Gas station clerk Sam receives a call from Emily, a nearly blind woman running from her murderous ex in the woods. Using a video call, Emily must survive the ordeal with Sam being her eyes from afar.
Stars: Midori Francis, Jolene Purdy, Missi Pyle, Michael Patrick Lane
Director: Yoko Okumura
Running Length: 76 minutes
TMMM Score: (4.5/10)
Review: I dunno, folks. Someone is missing the boat on creating a solid thriller anthology series right now because I’ve been seeing a growing number of movies boasting 45 minutes of juicy content that would go over like gangbusters if put into the right package. The trouble is that these 45 minutes are in the middle of longer films, sometimes twice that length, draining the electric energy generated by a creative idea.
Take the new film Unseen, premiering On Demand in March before moving to MGM+ in May. One of the films produced under the Blumhouse Television banner exclusively for streaming, this has a fantastic concept that is ab-so-lut-ly perfect for the company known for sending audiences out of theaters (or into their bedrooms) appropriately terrified.
A young woman (Midori Francis, Ocean’s Eight) has been kidnapped and drugged by her crazy ex (Michael Patrick Lane, Tully) and taken to a remote cabin in the woods. Visually impaired without corrective eyewear, she manages to escape into the forest with her phone but breaks her glasses in the process. In another state (FL), depressed convenience store attendant Sam (Jolene Purdy, WandaVision) has shown up late again for her mundane shift and is about to fix the broken slush machine when she gets a call from an unknown number. It’s Emily, the girl in the woods whom Sam had conveniently misdialed earlier that morning. Unable to see her phone clearly, Emily called the number back, hoping that Sam could use her Facetime video to direct her out of the woods…and steer her clear of her psychotic boyfriend, that is desperately trying to hunt her down. While Sam battles her self-doubt and eventually a raging Karen-esque customer (a deranged Missi Pyle, Ma), she keeps Emily on the line and out of sight. As Sam’s battery decreases and Emily’s options become limited, both women must think quickly to work together to escape this dangerous situation.
If Unseen had clocked in at a cool 42 minutes, I could see myself taking a substantial breather at the end from the delightful stress of it all. This would have required director Yoko Okumura to tighten the pacing significantly, removing much of the inconsequential background info on both women provided as Emily strolls through the woods. While the film gets off to a banger of a start, eventually, there comes the point where Emily is working harder to pump up Sam’s crippling insecurity than finding a way out of her predicament. This is a life-or-death situation, and too often, the script from Salvatore Cardoni and Brian Rawlins has the women stopping to discuss plans for college and what they want to do with their lives.
At 76 minutes, Unseen is one of the shorter offerings, yet it still feels too long. A glitch in my screener turned this one off at the 60-minute mark, and before restarting it I honestly couldn’t believe there were fifteen minutes left. It all leads to a bizarro conclusion (only in Florida, I tell you!) and a last-minute MacGuffin that couldn’t possibly still be in play. If you’re looking for a (very) similar film released in the last several years, check out See for Me, which finds someone with a visual impairment needing to be guided away from danger by outside assistance. That script has far more to explore with its characters and offers intriguing twists to characters you won’t expect.
UNSEEN is on Digital and On Demand on March 7, 2023 and on MGM+ on May 2023.