Susan Granger’s review of “Unsane” (Fingerprint Releasing)
Determined to prove that he could make a creditable, horror film on an iPhone 7, prolific Steven Soderbergh (“Magic Mike,” “Logan Lucky,” “Traffic,” and the “Oceans” trilogy) took a cast, headed by Claire Foy (“The Crown”), and small crew to a dingy, abandoned hospital north of New York City.
Shooting during the day and editing on his laptop at night, he managed to make this $1.5 million movie in 10 days. Problem is: the all-too-familiar, cat-and-mouse plot by James Greer and Jonathan Bernstein (“Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector,” “The Spy Next Door”) is clumsy, cliché-riddled and underwhelming.
The wannabe psychological thriller revolves around a snarky financial analyst Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy), who has moved from Boston to a town in Pennsylvania as she deals with residual trauma from an obsessed, deluded stalker, David Strine (Joshua Leonard).
“Rationally, I know my neuroses are colluding with my imagination,” she admits. “But I’m not rational.”
After visiting a psychiatric counselor, candidly expressing suicidal ideations and stupidly signing a consent form, Sawyer is involuntarily committed to Highland Creek Behavioral Center, a mental-health facility, ostensibly for 24 hours.
“This is all a terrible mistake,” she maintains.
But then Sawyer’s sanity is called into question after she spies a creepy orderly who looks just like her stalker – which prolongs her incarceration, alongside mentally disturbed, shiv-carrying, tampon-tossing Violet (Juno Temple) and opioid-addicted Nate (SNL’s Jay Pharoah).
Technical details: As cinematographer, Soderbergh used three iPhone 7 Plus phones, shooting in 4K video with an app called FiLMiC Pro controlling the shutter speed, color and focus. He also utilized clip-on Moment lenses and a hand-held DJI Osmo stabilizer, which is, basically, a selfie stick.
FYI: Actually, Sean Baker’s “Tangerine” (2015) was the first notable film shot on an IPhone.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Unsane” is an experimental, absurdly contrived 6, evoking a creepy kind of claustrophobic suspense.