Movie review: Unsane

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a horror movie by a horror hater (also known as a scary cat). This is Unsane!

IMDb summary: A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear–but is it real or a product of her delusion?

Writing

Unsane was written by Jonathan Bernstein (journalist) and James Greer (novelist and critic) and I thought that their script was really interesting. First of all, I loved how much information the movie provided about its characters and the story, and yet, how nothing was clear. It sprung the main topic of the film on the viewer in the first few scenes without any preparation. That main question, whether the character was actually insane or not, didn’t actually end up being answered but the ambiguity of it was so intriguing that I wasn’t even mad for not getting concrete answers. I also don’t feel that concrete answers are appropriate when looking at mental illness – a very complex, personal, and still not-fully-understood field.

The main character, aside from her existing (or not) psychological issues, was also super interesting. Her personality and actions weren’t the most sympathetic and yet, the viewer wanted to root for her. It was quite a confusing and frustrating state that the viewer was put in. I also got personally annoyed with the character because of her incapability to work the situation that she was in. That inability might be due to the mental illness? But did it start because of the stalking? Or was there an issue before? Was she ever telling the truth? Why would she play/provoke him? What about that ending? I really didn’t expect the movie to go there but I am sort of fascinated by the fact that it did.

Lastly, the setting of the movie was incredible too. That asylum was both old-school (because it reminded me of a mental institution one might see in old horror movies) but was also super contemporary (because it was just a front for insurance fraud (yey, capitalism?)).

Directing

Unsane was directed by Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike XXL), who was also the cinematographer and the editor of the film. His involvement with this movie was the main reason while I actually subjected myself to watching a horror movie. And it wasn’t really a typical horror movie, but a very fascinating and creepy psychological thriller (and I’m somehow very into that genre, even though it is so closely related to the horror one).

Anyways, Soderbergh has made some bold chances, like breaking away from the big studios and handling the marketing himself with his last film Logan Lucky. He went one step further with Unsane by not even using any of the traditional filmmaking methods – the picture was shot entirely on an iPhone (Tangerinewas also shot on an iPhone, so Unsane isn’t the first ‘bigger’ movie to do that). Thus, the aspect ration of the movie was unusual. The cinematography was super unique too: the viewers had a very direct relationship with the image and seemed to be so close to it. The angles from which the film was shot also differed from the usual ones. That lack of distance between the viewer and the picture kinda made it feel like a documentary movie too. The not-perfect quality of the visuals also added to that feeling of realism. Since it appears that Soderbergh pretty much did everything himself on this picture, the credits of it were surprisingly short. I was halfway down the stairs in the screen and they were already over.

Acting

Unsane was mostly a one-woman show: Claire Foy (Breathe) played the lead and was really incredible. Love the fact that Netflix’s The Crown led to more cinematic roles for her. Joshua Leonard played the stalker and was uncomfortable to watch, both because of what type of character he was playing and because the actual performance was a bit stiff. SNL’s Jay Pharoah was one strand of positivity in the film and I did appreciate the breather/reassurance that the character provided both for the main character and the viewers. Juno Temple (Wonder Wheel) also had a small but quite explosive role. There is also a fun cameo by a big movie star, who has been popping up in all kinds of different projects, lately.

Unsane was an unhinged psychological thriller that left me with more questions than answers, like any good psycho-thriller should do.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Unsane trailer 

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Movie review: Stonehearst Asylum

Movie reviews

Hi!

This past weekend, I went to see the new mystery thriller Stonehearst Asylum. I went to this film for 3 reasons:

  1. Since seeing Cloud Atlas movie I became interested in Jim Sturgess – he plays the main role here.
  2. The movie is based on Edgar Alan Poe’s short story The System of Doctor Tarr and Profesor Fether. I had read Poe’s short story The Pit and the Pendulum in 10th grade and since then became intrigued to read more of his work. I have read the short story this film is based on before going to the movie and I can definitely see why Hollywood producers chose this particular story to turn into a motion picture. It has a tremendous amount of potential possibilities and a tonne of mentioned but unexplored themes.
  3. The work of asylums and the complexity of human mind fascinate me. Moreover, Fox’s Gotham’s story-line about Arkham asylum is my favorite part of that whole show.

Summary (from IMDb): A recent medical school grad who takes a position at a mental institution soon finds himself taken with one of his colleagues — though he has no initial idea of a recent, horrifying staffing change.

Directing

The movie is directed  by Brad Anderson whose most well know films are The Call (2013) with Halee Berry (we watched this one at school during psychology class – that film really shocked me, especially when something like that happened in my own county only recently) and The Machinist (2004) – I’m planning to watch this one.

Visuals and the setting:

The movie is set in 1899. I love period pieces and XIX century is one of my favorite time periods. Imperialism, industrialization, nationalism are 3 words that describe the XIX century. All these events have negative and positive outcomes and I love when history is complex like that and doesn’t give us just straight-up facts but challenges our minds, makes us compare pluses and minuses and lets ourselves decide if disadvantages outweigh the advantages or vice versa.

The color palette and the design of asylum looked believable and really cool too.

Twist (SPOILERS)

The first twist that the patients with Lamb had overthrown the doctors of the asylum and put all the keepers and the true head of the asylum Dr. Salt into cages was predictable and it was also spoiled in the trailer. The movie really had a lot of cliches and I swear, I finished almost all the lines of dialogue in my mind before the characters said the words. When the movie made me think than I had it all figured out, the plot had the twist that I really didn’t expect it to have. I might have predicted it if I had watched more carefully, but I stupidly turned off my mind and just enjoyed the movie. The twist was really nice surprise at the end and made the movie even more better.

Acting/Character by character breakdown

I don’t usually do my reviews like this, but this film had so many characters and all of them did something important. So, let’s begin!

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Jim Sturgess as Edward Newgate – he is the main protagonist and the only character you can root for because his intentions are mostly pure. He is divided between two sides: the cruel patients and not less cruel doctors.  Jim’s acting was great, really good performance.

Kate Beckinsale as Eliza Graves – a troubled woman whose family got rid of her and whose husband beat and used her, so she bit his ear off and ended up in an asylum. She suffers from seizures when touched by men. I wished her back story was explored a bit more.

These two characters, of course, fell in love in the course of the movie. To my mind, their romance was a bit fake and pushed.

Michael Caine as Dr. Salt – a cruel doctor with cruel treating methods. Michale Caine was on screen for only a short time and I never understood his character, he looked no better than a crazy person.

Ben Kingsley as Silas Lamb – mad genius and a killer whose actions I could understand. He was a surgeon in a war and killed few of his patients because they were suffering and dying, so he relieved them of their suffering.

In my opinion, Lamb’s action were justified much better than Salt’s. They could have showed why Salt was acting the way he was because it just seemed that he wanted to break his patients and, while trying to restore their sanity, he only made them more mad. Lamb, on the other hand, clearly had a post dramatic stress disorder after the war.

David Thewlis as Mickey Finn – a crazy supporting character who really lacked the back story. You knew he was crazy but you didn’t know why and as a result, didn’t care for him much.

Sinéad Cusack as Mrs. Pike – the head nurse of the asylum and the only character who was completely selfless and kind. Wish we would have spent more time with her as well.

Sophie Kennedy Clark as Millie – one of the patients who suffered from Salt’s treatments and blossomed when Lamb became the head of the asylum. Her whole plot-line could have been cut because it distracted the viewer form the main events.

Themes and Questions

The movie raised a lot of questions like: Can human actions be justified? Can we know what is right and what is wrong? Are selfless but cruel acts still acts of kindness ? What is insanity? Do we know if we are insane? Is there a cure for insanity? Is it a disease or just another term that describes a person as different? Can people be saved? Is there good side and a bad side or are they are inseparable and undefinable?

All in all,  I liked the visuals and the acting. Some characters were interesting and their actions raised a lot of questions while others could have been developed much more or cut out completely. The twists and clichés mixed together made the movie a plesant experience.

Trailer: Stonehearst Asylum trailer

Rate: 3.5/5 

Stonehearst_Asylum_poster(Google Images)