The Horror of Being Human.
The scariest thing in this movie is Helen Hunt’s face.
Hunt is Jackie, married to Detective Harper (Jon Tenney), with a teen son Connor (Judah Lewis). And she’s just had an affair that has driven her family apart irreconcilably. And something supernatural is going on in her house.
I SEE YOU starts as a generic supernatural horror (doors closing by themselves, TV turned on, records playing; Detective Harper even wakes up one night having wet his bed mysteriously!), and ends somewhere completely different. In a good way and a bad way.
I SEE YOU moseys along its supernatural path with a certain throughline: boys are being abducted mysteriously, and the detective on the case also has a son in the age range of the abductees; his wife’s affair keeps the family dynamic estranged, and she believes that the unexplained occurrences around the house are the fault of their son acting up against her. Until midway, when the movie suddenly re-visits the whole first act from a different point of view, surprising us with its daring recant of what it was trying to set up as supernatural all along! But this turn is actually more dire than anything from the spirit world. Because ghosties don’t exist – but real-life ghouls do.
Written by first-timer Devon Graye and directed by relative newcomer Adam Randall (iBOY), with atmospheric soundtrack dissonance by William Arcane, I SEE YOU shows us how humanity is never all black and white, but shades of selfishness. Everyone is doing something that they feel benefits them, in the long or short run. And everyone is wrong. We feel we should root for certain characters and then our allegiances are turned on a twist, but then we realize that the person we are now rooting for is still doing something wrong. It’s the horror of being human.
The best scene has to be where Jackie must seek help from her husband – to bury the now-dead body of her lover! How it came to this blighted juncture is screenwriting gold: the Lover appeared at her door unannounced, is injured by a mug from the roof (thrown by son? by a haunting entity?), and is hidden in the basement until Jackie returns from taking her son to school. While in the basement, Lover is clubbed on the head by an unseen assailant, dies. Jackie returns to find him dead, thinking it was complications from the original wound – and her Detective husband is the only person she can realistically tell without her being dragged through the judicial system as a murder suspect!
And when we see the murder from the other point of view, the twists start coming thick and dirty.
It could be construed as jarring – the sudden left turn from supernatural horror to home invasion thriller – if you invested your emotions into viewing a certain genre of movie and are now being forced to watch a genre you never clicked on. It wasn’t a deal-breaker for me, but I felt the skid marks. Movie also introduces an eccentricity we’ve only encountered on the dark web and those disturbing YouTube cautionary tales – phrogging. (Home invaders who surreptitiously squat in your basement or attic, avail themselves of your wares when you’re out, and leave after a short period without being detected. And yes, their minute effect on your household would look “supernatural.”)
Mindy (Libe Barer) is the veteran phrogger – always filming and narrating, as is this wastrel generation’s wont – with Alec (Owen Teague) tagging along as the phrogger-in-training, whose boredom drives him to be as intrusive as possible without being discovered. It’s the horror of being human. We can now put a face to the doors slamming and records playing – but really, who would sleep through someone pissing on them? Unless you’re into that shit, Detective…
And is it too clever-clever then, for the family to JUST HAPPEN TO HAVE a frog mask lying around, for Alec to wear in trailers, as if he might be an apparition?
Uh, Helen… Look, I don’t want to shame the poor woman, who is only succumbing to the ravages of time, like we all will (she was 56 at the time of filming), however, she always looked a little Romulan, even when young, and those features have been accentuated – her tilted eyes, the downward lines on the sides of her mouth, making her look like a puppet, and her dour, haggard resting face. YouTuber FoundFlix describes Hunt being in “a drugged-out haze” – but he’s being kind. Unless the drug he means is Botox.
And honestly, I don’t know whether that IS Botox or the lack thereof. Her face just looks… scary. It’s the horror of being human.
So the movie succeeds on all fronts.