I See You

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

I See You
dir Adam Randall
scr Devon Graye
prd Matt Waldeck
with Helen Hunt, Jon Tenney, Judah Lewis, Owen Teague, Libe Barer, Gregory Alan Williams, Sam Trammell, Erika Alexander, Allison King, Jennifer Grace, Nicole Forester, Riley Caya
release UK Jun.19 eiff,
US 6.Dec.19
19/US 1h36

tenney trammel teague

I See You
With an attention-grabbing opening sequence and a powerfully foreboding tone, this ambitiously made dramatic thriller drags the audience inexorably toward something that's clearly going to be terrifying. It's a fascinating mix of bleak drama with hints of ghostly horror, and it's made even more effective by the understated performances of the cast. There's a sense that perhaps there are too many surprises along the way, but the film never loosens its murderous grip.
In small-town Ohio, Jackie (Hunt) worries about her angry teen son Connor (Lewis), who's getting into fights at school. She's also popping pills to avoid her guilt over cheating on her husband Greg (Tenney), a detective looking into the disappearance of two local boys with his partner Spitz (Williams). This seems to be connected to a 15-year-old closed case involving a paedophile. But nasty events much closer to home leave this family unable to catch its breath, as someone or something attacks them in ways that make them feel like they're losing their minds.
The film is intricately written and directed to build intrigue, dropping inexplicable events into the narrative that build quickly in frequency, freaking out both the characters and the audience. Missing cutlery, an escaped hamster, pictures vanishing from frames: these kinds of disorienting things only add to the strained relationship between Jackie and Greg. There's also a creepy ceramic mask under Connor's bed. And what follows is both unnerving and sometimes downright shocking, as plot elements begin to converge in clever ways.

Performances are dark and subtle. Hunt delivers a nicely dazed performance as the doped-up housewife struggling to deal with both her own actions and the scary things that are happening around her. Tenney and Lewis are also terrific as her husband and son, each dealing with a specific mash-up of anger and fear. All three have a stunned quality, worn out after past emotional issues. So they're hardly able to confront these new ones. The hitch is that these may not be new problems.

About halfway in, there's a revelation involving two documentary-making teens (Teague and Barer) that shifts the nature of the film without lightening the tone at all. Director Randall and writer Graye continue to add alarming touches, pushing the story in unpredictable directions while adding some thrilling twists to the narrative. Some of this feels a bit contrived, especially as the body count increases, but each chilling turn of events makes the film both more involving and hauntingly nightmarish.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 3.Dec.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall