For mainstream Hollywood filmmakers few are more daring or diverse than Steven Soderbergh. His ability to tackle a multiplicity of genres and subject matters with consistent craft and vision, seemingly with the ease most of us change our pants is breath taking. So, many were rightfully fired up when, what seemed like in the middle of the night, a new project materialized that seemed to immerse itself in the horror genre. And furthermore, that it was completely shot on an iPhone 7 plus.
This of course isn’t the first film to do this—but in the hands of Steven Soderbergh a hushed but fervent buzz began to build on the horizon. And so, in the wake of all this, we get—Unsane. A film that delivers one masterstroke vision of the effects of mind-altering drugs, some solid intense acting, and directorial vision all built on a shoddy bedrock of mediocrity.
Unsane tells the story of a woman Sawyer Valentini (powerfully played by Claire Foy) thrown into either baffling mind breaking-delusion or painful psychological torture as she is tricked into being kept against her will into a mental health facility. Where she may or may not be in the midst of a hunt by her one-time stalker.
This is a film that has a worthy thrust. One that wants to demonstrate how bewildering and insane it must feel as a woman hunted by a stalker—especially in a world where often times she isn’t believed by a male-controlled society. This is a smart and interesting fertile ground for genre filmmaking especially for socially conscience horror film. Unfortunately, Unsane fails to nail this subject matter down effectively and instead turns to the mental health industry as a complicit accomplice undercutting any actual point the film might actually be making.
We live in a country where suicide is the 2nd highest leading cause of death in ages 10-34. We watch celebrities, family, and friends take their own lives at almost at a record rate. We are in a mental health crisis. Hollywood has a long history of vilifying the mental health industry as a place where an individual can be whisked away never to be seen again
This is a personal issue for me.
Less than five years ago I was institutionalized. Placed in a facility after attempting suicide. I’m alive today because of that facility. I have a wonderful wife, beautiful daughters and a family who loves me because I got help. And allow me to tell you—if anything there aren’t enough beds for the people who need them not the other way around. I waited nearly too long. Most wait much much too late to save their lives.
This is because of the very fear this film profits on. The spine-tingling paranoia that somehow getting help is some feckless black hole that sucks its victims into an endless abyss. One that for those suffering from depression is already an omnipresent horrific reality. It’s become a cliché, and isn’t just lazy writing, it’s outright irresponsible and dangerous.