And here it is. The deciding factor to skyrocket this new medium of “found footage” into popularity, or obscurity. What should we call this? “Cam footage?” I’m coining “cam footage.” If no one’s come up with this, then y’all owe me a quarter anytime you say it. If someone else already came up with it… then piss off, you bloody wanker, and come at me!
Thanks to the popularity, or rather the fluctuating popularity, of found-footage films, the genre has occasionally needed a make-over. Well, thanks to the… I guess “success” of the horror film UNFRIENDED (2015), someone saw that and decided to give it a mystery-thriller face-lift. Interesting, to say the least, but this time, they managed to rake in an actually talented actor. Maybe this one’s got an actual shot at being a legit, quality film.
The story looks like it’s about a loving father whose daughter is off to college, but at some point, stops checking in and disappears. The dad goes around talking to her friends, and learns that his perceptions of how popular she was have been fabricated and lies.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have John Cho (GEMINI , COLUMBUS , STAR TREK: BEYOND , GRANDMA , and upcoming films THE OATH  and WISH DRAGON ), Michelle La (feature film debut; congrats, miss), Sara Sohn (FURIOUS 7  and SENSE8 [2015 – 2018]), Debra Messing (ALONG CAME POLLY ), and Colin Woodell (UNFRIENDED 2 ).
Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing, we have Aneesh Chaganty, making his feature-film debut. Congrats, sir. Chaganty’s partner-in-pen is Sev Ohanian, known for a movie I’ve not seen or heard of. Composing the score, we have Torin Borrowdale, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. The cinematographer is Juan Sebastian Baron, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Okay, now this gets a little weird. There are two directors of “virtual” photography, which I assume deals in the very specific computer desktop layout and what’s shown, and those same men who are also co-editing the movie, and they are Nicholas D. Johnson (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, but edited the animated film HEAVENLY SWORD ) and Will Merrick (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of).
Overall, I’d say this is going to be… better than anything either of the Unfriended movies would make, but I have no idea. Cho’s going to be amazing, and if done right, the tension will be there. But we’ll see. At the end of the day, wouldn’t cam-footage movies work best as YoutubeRed movies? I mean, these things take place on a computer screen anyway, and would likely be more immersive. But that’s neither here nor there at this point.
This is my honest opinion of: SEARCHING
Set in San Jose, California. David Kim (John Cho) and his sixteen-year-old daughter Margot (Michelle La) remain close despite losing her mom and his wife, Pamela (Sara Sohn) to lymphoma. One day, Margot stays late at a study study group and is gone the next morning, David assuming that she went to school already. Discovering that she wasn’t there, or at her piano practices, he soon fears that she’s gone missing and gets the police involved. His primary detective working the case is the decorated Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing), who does everything in her power to help David.
Holy shit, guys. I never thought I’d see the day, but this “computer screen” movie is pretty damn good. Really damn good, actually. Maybe even great. I have no idea how many “computer screen” movies exist out there outside of the Unfriended movies, if they exist at all, but I have a hard time believing that this is going to be topped.
Let’s get the easiest compliment out of the way, John Cho. Dude, this guy knocks it out of the park. He’s otherwise moved on from his wife’s death to the best of his abilities, though there are still subtle callbacks. He can’t write to Margot that her mom would be proud, he doesn’t really talk about it to her at all, and focuses all of his energy on making sure that she’s okay without giving much thought on his own well-being. But as soon as Margot goes missing, he’s relentless. He calls almost everyone on her Facebook profile, Snapchat, tirelessly looking for any possible leads to follow, even possibly realizing that he doesn’t know his daughter when damning evidence shows up that she might have been involved in illegal activity. That moment is absolutely chilling. You really feel for David’s journey and agonize with him. Although you never see his own reaction when certain televised interviews, especially the internet with message boards claiming that it was David who did it, “29 reasons why the dad would want to kill his daughter,” memes like, “Father of the Year” with David in a police volunteer vest, you really feel outraged that these assholes have no idea what they’re talking about. This would certainly light a big enough fire under his ass to make future decisions, not justified, but understandable.
But Cho’s not the only golden nugget in this film. How about a little surprise “woot woot” for Debra Messing! Has she always been this good of an actress? I don’t know, I don’t watch WILL & GRACE! By Jesus, someone tear her away from that show and get her onto the big screen ASAP. I want more! But seriously, enough gushing, I bought every single scene that she was in. You know when a cop tells you that everything that can be done is being done, but you never really buy into it because cops that say that have no likable charisma? Well, Vick does, so when she says that, I trust her. And so does David, which really speaks to her natural gravity. She’s determined, she’s smart, clever, charismatic, and genuinely cares about what’s happened.
What I really appreciated about this movie over something like the Unfriended movies is the variety given. You don’t get just one type of computer screen, like a Mac or a Windows. You get both! Side note, I loved that this movie goes back in time with dial-up, and the different layouts of the Windows computers throughout the years. Though I’m guessing this movie takes place pre-2014, just because I do see the Windows XP-type screen a lot, which is pretty outdated for a desktop in 2018, and if David’s job pays well enough that he can afford to give 100 dollars to Margot for her piano lessons every- what was it – month at best, week at worst (I forgot the details), I’d say he should be able to afford a brand spanking new computer. In any case, the movie provides a variety of visuals to keep from getting monotonous.
Also, the movie is so well-crafted that it kept me guessing, like a good mystery story should. Unlike a lot of people, who will likely pretend to be prophets and constantly guess the outcome of the story, I didn’t really care about doing that myself. I got so sucked into the events unfolding naturally that I was just hoping to see it all play out in a satisfying way.
By the way, this movie gets serious brownie points for referencing addictinggames.com. I totally played games on that shit as a teen.
Overall, I’m saying it, I think this movie’s great. It takes the promising concept created by Unfriended, and creates something rather extraordinary. You are completely sucked in, thanks to masterfully incorporated tension, tremendous acting from both Cho and Messing, a plot that keeps your eyes glued to the screen, and leaves you with the profound knowledge that no future “computer screen” movie will ever get better than this. As a recommendation, yeah, I’m saying you should check this out, it’s a great movie.
My honest rating for SEARCHING: 5/5
This week’s reviews:
- OPERATION FINALE
- THE LITTLE STRANGER
- LET THE CORPSES TAN / LAISSEZ BRONZER LES CADAVRES
- YA VEREMOS / WE’LL SEE
Next week’s reviews: