See For Me is a Canadian thriller film directed by Randall Okita, whose work I was, prior to, unfamiliar with. The film finds itself the latest entry in an unnamed, unofficial horror subgenre we’ve seen a lot of in recent years.
The best way I can describe the subgenre is to say it bends established formula by adding a new ailment or obstacle for its antagonist or protagonist to navigate throughout the film. For instance, imagine a home-invasion film where the antagonist is a blind man (Don’t Breathe) or a home-invasion where the protagonist is mute-deaf (Hush). It isn’t a brand-new genre (consider 1995’s horror Mute Witness if you haven’t already), but it is one we’ve seen a lot more of in recent years. It’s a neat idea, offering new possibilities for horror, resourcefulness, and perspective.
See For Me sees Skyler Davenport portray a young teenager named Sophie, a visually impaired woman who can best be described as troubled. Sophie is strong-willed and independent, making it difficult for her to ask for help now that her degenerative eye disease has badly worsened. This has led her to begin housesitting jobs, which often end with her stealing from them, and betting that they won’t suspect her. While housesitting for a wealthy client, Sophie is met by some unwelcome guests – three criminals looking to break in and rob it. The home-invasion flick now sees Sophie fight to evade them, with her only defense being a smartphone app called ‘See for Me’, an app that connects her with a person who can see her surroundings and guide her actions.
This was a film I had a lot of trouble writing a review about. Let me elaborate – the film itself is pleasant enough. It isn’t badly shot or acted, and it doesn’t make any one single jarring mistake that disrupts the entire film. In a lot of ways, that means See For Me has a leg up on a lot of other horrors I’ve written about. I always try to write about the positives of a horror film, when I can. I know a lot more about what goes into a film than what I did fifteen-years ago when I first started writing reviews. All that aside, as much as I want to refrain from disparaging the film, which I think is a taut, little film, with not a whole lot of bad things to write about, I can’t escape the sense of deja vu I feel having to come up with things to say on its behalf.
I feel the idea had potential to succeed, but there is a definite paint-by-the-numbers quality that persists throughout the whole film. As prefaced, the idea is a good one – of Sophie having to navigate an unfamiliar house with a stranger’s instruction being her only resource for survival. It’s a neat idea, but, at the same time, it feels interchangeable with a lot of other entries in the home-invasion subgenre. The things it does incorporate, pulling from its unique premise, feel basic and surface-level, like they needed to crack open the egg and never did.
Skylar Davenport and Jessica Parker Kennedy‘s (she’s the one on the other end of the phone app) back in forth could’ve elevated the film and offered a new, unique dimension, but I don’t think that was ever allowed to happen. It isn’t because I didn’t think there was chemistry, but because the dynamic and relationship they’re allowed to create never feels like it’s allowed to reach second-gear (I’ll refer you again to the egg cracking analogy). The elements of suspense and tension in this film, while never bad, never feel new or unexpected.
By the time See For Me ended, I found myself satiated in my desire for a watchable, home-invasion thriller film. At the same time, I found myself yearning for more. The new wrinkles in the worn formula might be enough to make you think otherwise, but I do wish this film could have done something, anything more with it.