I just found out that director Steven Soderbergh shot “Unsane” with the iPhone 7. Look at the quality and tone the iPhone has given to the movie, especially with its 4K app. Sometimes, it’s shot with with a blue filter, and most of time, it looks like they film one shot at a time. It doesn’t rely on special effects; it relies on the idea to freak us out or at least keep us at the edge of our seat.
Another thing the movie doesn’t rely on is the whole jump scare crap. There’s no monsters or ghosts popping out. This takes place in a mental hospital with corrupt doctors, and one that doesn’t belong. At least one person knows that.
And that one person is Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy from “The Crown”), who has been stalked by her ex David Strine (Joshua Leonard). She has filed a retraining order and moved from Boston to Pennsylvania, and yet, she keeps seeing him. So, she decides to find support group, located in a mental hospital. When she signs the paper work, she apparently has volunteered for the hospital to hold her against her will.
She can’t make contact with the outside world. Hell, calling the police would be useless. While struggling to get out, she finds out that David is one of the doctors, and yet, no one believes her. Every time she freaks out, and fights with a filthy patient (Juno Temple), the doctors have to medicate and retrain her.
She befriends another patient Nate (Jay Pharaoh), who knows how corrupt the hospital is financially, tells her to keep her head down until her release, and secretly has a cell phone. So she calls her mother (Amy Irving) to get her out, and even that plan ends up failing.
At times, we cringe at the decisions made by Sawyer when she tries to prove to the doctors David is here, especially since Nate told her not to freak out. But Soderbergh has given us a horror movie that relies on no eerie music or monsters popping out. It’s more of a personal study, mainly when Sawyer and David confront each other during the last half hour, and when understand why Sawyer tried so hard to avoid him. You’ll find a surprise cameo in that flashback, I kid you not.
Foy explodes as Sawyer with her stress and anger; Leonard has a charming, yet sadistic role that distinguishes small time monsters; and Pharaoh has proven himself to be more than an “SNL” comedian, but an open-minded actor. I loved watching these actors on screen.
And again, I just love Soderbergh’s decision to film “Unsane” with an iPhone 7. The outcome looks thrilling, the editing is riveting, and the story amazes you. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is arguably the greatest mental institution movie of all time, and “Unsane” offers some of those elements.