Reviews: psychological horror in Unsane

Published On March 22, 2018 | By Garth Cremona | Film TV & Theatre, Reviews

Directed by Steven Soderbergh,
Starring Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah

Psychological horror-thriller from Steven Soderbergh. A young woman looks for help from a hospital and ends up being unwittingly committed for a number of days against her will. During her stay she begins to display erratic and even violent behaviour that does not sit well with the hospital, who are technically keeping her there until her insurance company stops paying. The help that she was looking for originally was because she had a stalker before, and although she has moved, changed jobs and more, she is convinced that she keeps seeing her stalker randomly turning up wherever she goes.

Our mental health is a scary thing, most of us don’t think too much about it on a day to day basis, until we or someone we know hits a problem. I’m constantly saying that everyone is just one bad day away from a completely different life, and this is the basis for the film Unsane.

Stephen Soderbergh continues his after-retirement career making a film that his idol Alfred Hitchcock would be glad to call his own. In fact there are a lot of times where Hitchcock’s later work, like Frenzy, has a lot in common with Unsane. The movie does feel like it’s film of two halves; when that happens you usually feel a little disconnect from the story and the characters, but here Soderbergh manages that all important plate-spinning routine with an effortless pace. The film, so I’m told, so it could be wrong, was filmed with an Iphone which adds to a gritty and almost found footage feel to the story.

Claire Foy, who you may know from The Crown, shows a magnificent talent as she abandons the royal dignity she showed in the Netflix show and strips back the glamour to show a young woman on the edge of sanity. Trying to rebuild a life after a serious stalking event in her old town. She now sees the stalker everywhere, and this leads her to seek help. She just wanted to talk to someone and yet ends up being held for voluntary observation. She’s tricked into signing the papers that lead to this, and her reaction shows how fragile she really is. The staff know that she’s signed the papers, the institution don’t care as long as the insurance company are paying out, and to add to her pain she’s still seeing the stalker in the halls of the hospital. Is he really there?

This is a type of horror film, it really is, more so than thriller. I sat there and felt exceptionally uncomfortable for the entire running time. The Iphone shooting of the film does offer that found footage feel that I usually hate, but because you are sitting there questioning the sanity of Foy, but also what you are seeing. It’s a very clever way to make a film. Great horror films and even great thrillers don’t just give you jump scares, they make you squirm in your seat, and I squirmed for sure.

The supporting cast add to this as the unemotional staff don’t care about the legality of Foy’s admission into the hospital, and are played with a scary reality. When the film changes gears and deals with the breakdown of the lines between reality and insanity, with the other patients that are in the ward, including a great performance by Juno Temple, my horror fan self felt a little skip of joy while wondering how it was all going to pan out for the characters. American horror films often leave you with hope for the future of the characters, here it is more the reality that our mental health is fragile, and just because you get through one episode doesn’t mean you are out of woods.

For fans of thrillers and horrors I cannot recommend this film enough. It is one that I want to see again in a room full of jumpy men and women and feel the nervous energy from them that I felt myself. This is as close to perfect as a horror/thriller can get. I’m a very happy horror fan today!

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About The Author

Garth Cremona
Garth Cremona is an Irish writer, as well as reviewer of films, comics and books

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