The premise of I See You is composed of familiar-sounding elements: home invasion, missing child investigation, and paranormal events in a seemingly-perfect American home. What the filmmakers here are attempting is to blend these in an unexpected way and trick the audience. Some of it works and some of it doesn’t.
What strikes quickly is the soundtrack. The opening woodland and dark house shots are layered with discordant alien horns and eerie synths, immediately unsettling us. The colour palette is muted while lingering, slow zoom-ins also add to the tense, melancholy atmosphere. As we meet the main players the dialogue is consistently intense and no one seems to like anyone else. By the end, though, even the audience will find it difficult to actually like any of the characters and the misery becomes too overloaded. Because there is no levity, the dark mood begins to lose much of its impact.
There is a fairly interesting backstory at play—Jackie (Helen Hunt) has had an affair and her family is at breaking point whilst police detective husband, Greg (Jon Tenney), investigates the disappearance of a second local child. Again though, each of the characters lacks any warmth and even rightfully angry teenage son Connor (Judah Lewis) is conveyed as a stereotype.
The main saving grace, then, is the unorthodox turn the film takes at the halfway point. Without spoilers, I See You shifts to camcorder mode, turning back in time to show us events from a new perspective. It re-engages, introducing new characters and might even make us wonder why the entire film wasn’t a “found footage” piece. However, while this section explains some mysteries and provides satisfactory reveals, not everything is tied up by the film’s end. Its opening child abduction mystery still feels unresolved and it seems one particular “paranormal” set-piece from that opening sequence was probably chosen for aesthetics over logic. Similarly bizarre is that the film’s biggest name—Helen Hunt—almost entirely disappears from screen two-thirds of the way in.
Overall, I See You feels disjointed. There are some effective thrills and the shift of register in the second act is a pleasing twist. However, it doesn’t quite pull together as a whole and remains in B-movie territory as the finale is reached.
Available on Blu-ray from Mon 25 May 2020