“Searching”: A Horror Movie Inside a Computer Screen

Film’s Creative and Innovative Style Captivates the Audience Without Having to Try

Andrew Mello, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Falcon Rating: 4/5


I always love to see new ideas when I go to see a movie. It’s what keeps the experience fresh and fun after so many years. The movies worth remembering always create a story or an idea you’ve never seen before, something you couldn’t get from a book or any other medium. When a movie like Birdman presents itself as a single untarnished cut, it can completely change how you think about the process of making movies. Searching is a movie on that same level, as it brings something very fresh to the table: a whole new perspective on how to make a movie.

Before actually seeing any evidence, hearing the idea for a movie done from the perspective of a computer screen sounds like a cheap gimmick. And in the hands of most other directors, you’d be correct in your initial doubts. There was another movie, Unfriended, which used the exact same format—but to no avail. The difference between the two movies is Unfriended uses this format as a gimmick, but Searching finds the most creative possibilities for its story. There are slight format changes to the computer screen technique in Searching, such as scenes filmed by security cameras, or FaceTime video between characters. But, every time those changes happen, it’s done for a narrative reason. We can read what our protagonist is thinking as he types something on the computer and then hastily deletes it. This form of cinematography allows the movie to speak directly to the audience. Deep emotions are also directly conveyed to the audience, like the raw feeling of a father’s shaky hands on a video call, desperate to find his daughter.

This form of cinematography allows the movie to speak directly to the audience.

While the mystery central to the plot isn’t particularly noteworthy compared to the cinematography, it’s by no means poorly constructed. David Kim (John Cho) plays the father of a teenage girl, Margot, who he doesn’t know nearly as well as he believes. The more he looks, the more he uncovers about the secret life she hid away on her laptop. His search is as much an investigation into the person his daughter has become as it is about finding out what happened to her. Detective Rosemary Vick assists his investigation and repeatedly talks David out of putting himself in danger, while still balancing a family life of her own. Some of the twists are more predictable than others, but it’s the kind of gripping story that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The story is written in such a way to allow the most creative uses for the medium, so what appealed most to me about Searching wasn’t the plot itself, but the way the mystery unfolds from the computer screen and how it integrates the audience.

Throughout the film, both the characters and the audience are simultaneously piecing together theories based on newspaper articles, video, and exposition in ways that never feel unnatural. Again, the idea for telling a mystery from a computer is one that could’ve hurt the flow and direction of the movie, but the longer you watch, the more you realize this story could never have been told as well in a traditional film. It doesn’t lean too heavily on the use of technology; instead it uses it in just the right ways to improve and impress.

I haven’t been so excited to talk about a movie in a long time, because there haven’t been any as fresh or innovative in years. Limitations often breed some of the most creative movies ever made, such as the fragile prop shark on Jaws forcing Spielberg to cut down its appearances, and in the process making it a better film. The self-imposed limitations of the computer screen have the same effect, not so much restricting as it does. You should watch Searching, if for no other reason than it’s a vastly different and impressively creative kind of movie than you’ll see for a long time.


This piece also appears in our October 2018 print edition.