(director: Adam Randall; screenwriter: Devon Graye; cinematographer: Philipp Blaubach; editor: Jeff Castelluccio; music: William Arcane; cast: Helen Hunt (Jackie Harper), Jon Tenney (Greg Harper), Judah Lewis (Connor), Owen Teague (Alec), Libe Barer (Mindy), Greg Alan Williams (Spitzky), Erika Alexander (Lieutenant Moriah Davis), Allison King (Officer Grace Caleb); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Matt Waldeck; Saban Films; 2019)

“A stylish, twisty and eerie crime thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Brit director Adam Randall (“Level Up”/”iBoy”) and first-time screenwriter, the former actor, Devon Graye, on a modest budget deliver a stylish, twisty and eerie crime thriller, but do it with too many cheap scare tricks. It’s a blend of a drama story with horror story staples thrown in. I See You tells an ambitious and clunky story about murder, abduction and a family crisis, with an unpredictable conclusion until the big reveal.

A 10-year-old boy is abducted in the woods of Ohio while riding his bicycle and vanishes. Assigned to the case is veteran detective Greg Harper (Jon Tenney) and his partner Spitzky (Greg Alan Williams). Greg recalls similar abductions in the area 15 years ago. Since the case was closed with a conviction of the pedophile, the cop thinks it might be the work of a copycat abductor or maybe they got the wrong guy.

Back in his suburban small town luxurious lakeside home, the cop tries to deal with his troubled marriage while working on the case. Greg’s guilt-ridden therapist wife Jackie (Helen Hunt) is still flustered over a recent affair and pops pills to relieve the pain. Their surly teenager son Connor (Judah Lewis), a school discipline problem, sides with dad. Home-life is toxic, as dad sleeps on the couch. The couple also think their house is haunted by strange noises and ghosts, or maybe something sinister is being played on them by an enemy trying to get them to lose their minds. In one scary scene, dad chases after the family’s missing hamster and gets mysteriously locked in the closet. 

The story in the first half revisits previous incidents in their lives via flashback, as it keeps the viewer guessing about what’s going down with a number of red herrings until it backtracks in the second half to give us a fresh way of seeing what happened before. By the conclusion there’s a final big twist that comes out of nowhere and clears things up (like suddenly the murder case is solved) and even if it’s not a logical conclusion it is at least almost believable.

The film aims to keep the viewer confused as long as possible with multiple plot devices until the big reveal, and succeeds in that dubious aim.

It best works as an atmospheric modern-day film noir home invasion movie and as a slow-burn suspense film, with an edgy performance by Hunt playing an unsympathetic character to give it some props. It uses an assortment of cheap tricks to try to keep our attention, which didn’t really work for me. The cheap scares also include the inexplicable incidents of missing cutlery and pictures removed from their frames at the cop’s house. It all leads to an illegal activity in the cop’s house known as “phrogging” that’s carried out by two punky teens Mindy (Libe Barer) and Alec (Owen Teague). This is a real crime term for when criminals stay in a stranger’s home and are uninvited and unnoticed. At least I learned something new from a film that left me haunted with a cold feeling and feeling like a dumb viewer because I was so confused by the muddled narrative.

I See You

REVIEWED ON 12/14/2019  GRADE: B-  https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/