When Unfriended (2014) arrived touting a premise where the entire movie would play out on a computer screen, many – including myself – laughed it off as another gimmick to try and make people watch another mediocre horror film. The sequel, Unfriended: Dark Web (2018) was more successful with its use of the same gimmick, though it had a much better story than the first. However, neither come close to the cinematic storytelling that Searching (2018) employs with the computer screen delivery in order to tell it’s riveting mystery.
Searching is compelling and features excellent performances
David Kim (John Cho) is a single father whose 16-year-old daughter, Margot (Michelle La), goes missing after a late night of studying. Detective Vick (Debra Messing) takes the missing person case and advises David to find out who she has been talking to, leading him to use her laptop. He begins to compile a list of suspects as he attempted to figure out what most likely happened.
John Cho has been an outstanding actor for a long time. However, this film truly provides him with a showcase in which to perform. Even with the fairly limited perspective offered by the cameras used in the film as a result of the computer screen presentation, he is able to deliver tremendous range in his performance. Messing also gives a notably strong performance in the film, delivering one of the more memorable monologues during the film when trying to reassure Cho’s character. La, and the supporting Sara Sohn and Joseph Lee, also deliver strong performances despite the film firmly centering on Cho.
What director Aneesh Chaganty is able to do with this presentation was impressive. Searching is clearly the next step in the evolution of a film style that started off as a cheesy gimmick. The opening of the film should do enough to push any cynics that a film shown completely from the perspective of a computer screen can be cinematic. He employs all of the techniques one would expect with visual storytelling through varying shot types and camera movements.
While there are a few scenes in the film that drag more than others, overall, Searching enthralls you and demands that you pay attention. It doesn’t achieve the level of suspense that Dark Web managed to, but Searching is definitely much more emotionally investing and compelling than the previous iterations of the style. If you’re able to see this film (as it’s in every market), I highly recommend it giving Searching the Must See rating.