(US - 2018)
Directed by Aneesh Chaganty. Written by Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanion. Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing, Michelle La, Joseph Lee, Sara Sohn, Stephen Michael Eich, Briana McLean, Ric Sarabia, Dominic Hoffman. (PG-13, 102 mins)
Setting an entire film on a laptop screen isn't a new gimmick. UNFRIENDED did a better-than-expected job of pulling it off, while others, like Nacho Vigalondo's OPEN WINDOWS, start strong but fall apart by trying to ditch the hook as quickly as possible. UNFRIENDED, produced by Russian NIGHT WATCH auteur Timur Bekmambetov, wasn't perfect, but it understood that it needed to stay on the computer screen to work, so to that end, it's not surprising that Bekmambetov is a producer on SEARCHING, a tense nail-biter that takes UNFRIENDED's hook and runs with it, making something smart, substantive, immersive, and wholly engrossing. It's a one-of-a-kind film both in its execution and the way it will actually hold up on repeat viewings even after you know how it ends. It'll be just as riveting to study how the filmmakers and the editors assembled the puzzle and hooked you along the way.