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Simon Read [Celluloid 12.07.19] horror thriller drama

I’m just going to start off running here and get straight to it: there is a turning point around halfway through I See You, a reveal after which things rely entirely on the audience’s willingness to completely suspend their disbelief and accept events so preposterous that they might as well be taking place on the Moon. That said, I See You is not boring for a moment. It has a kind of loopy, ‘what ever next?’ vibe that’s quite compelling - if you can see past what is essentially one huge plot contrivance after another.

Set in a small lakeside town plagued by child abductions, Helen Hunt stars as a wife and mother coping with the shame of her recent infidelity and the aftermath of the impact it's had on her family. Her husband is a stoic but distracted local police detective who's investigating the child abductions, and her son is a troubled lad who retreats into his phone while nursing his grudge against his mother. This is a family who are slowly coming apart, haunted by mother’s indiscretion, but also literally haunted by a spooky supernatural presence in their house that seems fuelled by their emotional troubles. Silverware goes missing, the TV switches on and off, and photographs on the wall are switched around or disappeared. What’s going on?

So far so Stephen King, but once the big reveal occurs and the film flips things around, we’re asked to swallow a whole heap of nonsense that I can’t divulge without spoiling things. I will admit that I didn’t see any of it coming, but once we do accept what's happening, we’re continually asked to accept more and more unlikely events and seemingly random twists. It sometimes feels as though the writer (Devon Graye) was worried that we’d get bored - so they’ve just thrown in everything they could think of without much concern regarding plausibility. Watching a screener on my own, at one point during the final act I loudly told this film to fuck off - but I still wanted to see where it was going.

Hunt is top billed here, and she delivers a solid performance as the harried, guild-ridden mother, trying her best to reconnect with her evasive husband and emotionally wounded son. However, her role is relatively slight. She appears in only a handful of scenes - a tense breakfast, a tense dinner, and a few encounters in between - while the second half of the film is almost entirely dominated by characters introduced later. Overall though, the cast do a fine job selling some occasionally absurd material.

Director Adam Randall has a keen eye and sets things up very well. Favouring slow pans and impressive Eye of God overhead tracking and crane shots, there is a fine sense of paranoia and creepiness to events. The air of maladjusted domesticity that haunts the family is nicely established, at least until the film changes gear in favour of something altogether more hysterical.

What strikes one by the final reel is how the film has morphed from a supernatural chiller, to a domestic morality play and finally a rather shonky whodunit thriller - but that it never quite delivers on its promises as it staggers from one direction to the next. And so we wonder, who was this film made for? I'm not sure.

I See You is an original idea that’s well enough crafted and performed (and those are rare) and there are moments when it really takes flight and delivers an entertaining ride, but a good reveal works when it makes you feel elated and energised. When it just feels like we’re being tricked and misdirected at random, it’s a lot to swallow for the sake of a good surprise. The four (count ‘em) twists in the last hour of this film felt like perhaps two too many. We start not to trust the film at all.

So, while it definitely has its moments and shows a lot of promise on the part of its creators, if you do find yourself loudly yelling at I See You to fuck off, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I See You is now playing theatrically and available on Digital and VOD.

Recommended Release: Memento

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