SEARCHING is, now don’t quote me on this, the 4th Desktop Thriller/Horror film to come out in the past couple of years, and maybe the third this year? Unfriended came out several years ago, the sequel Dark Web, came out this year, there is this, and I believe another one called Profile came out this year too, but it wasn’t a wide release so I have yet to catch it. I don’t have internet right now and am working off a word document, so I’m not going to check my facts, I’m just going to copy and paste when my works internet comes back up and you can look up those facts for me yourself. Anyway, I am really enjoying these Desktop thrillers for some reason, and would like to see a couple of more (hopefully more spread out in the coming years) and my statement is especially true in that Searching is easily the best of them so far.
With Unfriended and Unfriended Dark Web, I always felt like I was watching a computer screen and never felt myself completely lost in the narrative, no matter how entertaining. That changed with Searching. Halfway through the film, I completely forgot that I was watching a movie told entirely through a laptop screen, completely immersed. This is the biggest movie of its genre to get the biggest marketing, it’s like they new they had a little something special up their sleeve. Unlike the unknown actors in the other laptop thrillers, you have the very recognizable John Cho and Debra Messing in this, and the story is always at a breakneck pace. The movie is about a father, played by Cho, who hasn’t heard from his daughter Margot for a day and a half and realizes something must be wrong after he figures out through getting into several of her daughter’s social media accounts that she hasn’t been going to her piano lessons for the past six months and sent $2,500 to an individual through her Venmo account, of which that individuals account just says Username with some numbers and shows to have been deactivated. He gets the police involved, and with a detective assigned to the case, played by Messing, scours through the internet and the rest of her daughter’s social accounts to see what exactly happened to her, whether she ran away, or something else deeply sinister.
The ways that John Cho discovers revelations about what exactly happened to his daughter through the internet were both interesting and logical. There was maybe one big one near the very end that might’ve been a little too convenient and a little bit of a stretch, but I was willing to forgive all that came before it. There are several twists and turns in this thing and you don’t know if a suspect is going to end up a red herring or not. The movie also, through the father’s computer and social media, strongly establishes his family and what has happened to them since Margot’s birth to present. In fact, it gets a little emotional, and the filmmakers knew to tug at the audiences heartstrings just enough so that it didn’t cross the line and step into melodrama. The acting also lends a hand in getting this film a little more credibility when it comes to desktop thrillers in general. John Cho is excellent here. I’ve always thought he was good, from Harold and Kumar to Star Trek, but here he is fantastically good and proves he could be a leading man in other things. I never liked Debra Messing all that much as an actress (either that or I really don’t like her character in Will & Grace all that much), but here, she gives her best performance as a police detective trying to help Cho’s character solve all the mystery about her daughter.
I also liked that the film didn’t just stay on one desktop/laptop the entire time. A couple of moments in the film it goes to a giant Iphone screen or switches to a believable news cast of what is going on. I liked that they did that because the father just re watching the newscast because the film wanted to stay on just his laptop, really wouldn’t have been all that believable. This was a really well made film and completely redefines what the desktop thriller can do. Unfortunately, since this is getting great reviews and seems to be doing well, Hollywood is going to over saturate the shit out of this genre, and will give us too many movies and get fatigue quickly, just like what happened with the found footage thrillers and the Paranormal Activity films. But if you want to check out just one of these genre films, please do this one. It is very well made and great entertainment.