Producers: Matt Code and Kristy Neville Director: Randall Okita Screenplay: Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue Cast: Skyler Davenport, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Pascal Langdale, Joe Pingue, George Tchortov, Natalie Brown, Emily Piggford, Laura Vandervoort, Keaton Kaplan, Matthew Gauveia and Kim Coates Distributor: IFC Midnight
Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue were obviously inspired by “Wait Until Dark” in concocting their script for this home-invasion thriller, but there are far worse models to emulate. “See for Me” is a bit undernourished in both concept and execution, but while less thrilling than you’d like, it happily avoids the gratuitous gore of most films of the genre while giving its heroine some welcome flaws.
That’s Sophie (newcomer Skyler Davenport), an accomplished skier who lost her sight in an accident some time ago and, wanting some independence from her protective mom (Natalie Brown), takes a job cat-sitting for Archie, the pet of soon-to-be-divorced Debra (Laura Vandervoort) in her remote mansion. She can rely on her pal Cam (Keaton Kaplan) to be her eyes via her trusty camera phone in getting the lay of the place.
Cam is not, however, willing to indulge Sophie’s penchant for lifting an expensive item or two—like a bottle of premium wine—while on the job. She considers what she’ll resell it for as part of her paycheck. He doesn’t.
After Cam signs off, Sophie has the misfortune of locking herself outside in the freezing cold, and certainly doesn’t want to call the police. Instead she uses a new phone app, See for Me, which provides her with a long-distance guide, Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy). Kelly turns out to be an army vet with some specialized knowledge, such as how to force a locked sliding glass door off its track, and Sophie will call her again when the house is invaded by a trio of thieves—Ernie (Pascal Langdale), Dave (Joe Pingue) and Otis (George Tchortov)—who are looking for something that, from the equipment they’ve brought, must be worth finding. It’s revealed before too long that they’re being directed by a mastermind who keeps in touch with them by phone.
Sophie’s also managed to call 9-1-1, and the police are on their way. Before they arrive, though, the intruders detect her presence and track her down. Can she persuade them—and their unseen boss—to let her live? And if so, at what cost?
Without revealing too much, it’s inevitable that the movie will end up as a cat-and-mouse game in which Sophie will be pitted against the robbers, helped by Kelly’s long-distance observations and warnings; fortunately, like the assailants in martial arts movies, they come after her one at a time. Then there’s the problem that arises when a sheriff’s deputy (Emily Piggford) shows up and insists on giving the house a thorough inspection, encouraged by Sophie’s obvious nervousness. Of course Archie (played by a feline named Bentley) proves to have no aptitude as a watch-cat; indeed, after an initial introduction he simply disappears for the duration.
This is Davenport’s movie, and she responds to the challenge of carrying it adeptly, giving Sophie an edginess that keeps the character from being just a goody-two-shoes damsel-in-distress, and a twist ending confirms it. Kennedy’s role is far more limited—she’s stuck in front of a computer screen the whole time—but she manages to infuse some zest into her scenes. Everybody else does a respectable job, with Kim Coates the standout among them. Director Randall Okita, production designer Ciara Vernon, cinematographers Jackson Parrell and Jordan Oram and editor James Vandewater can’t entirely hide the illogicalities inherent in the script (how is the light from Sophie’s phone not a dead giveaway in the dark house?), but they generally use the interior of the expansive mansion to good effect, even if the pacing is sometimes a mite slow and the energy level a bit low. What sounds like a synthesizer score by Menalon (the duo Joseph Murray and Lodewijk Vos) doesn’t go overboard, only occasionally resorting to that awful recurrent drone so common nowadays, which resembles a woofer gone bad on a stereo system.
“See for Me” adds some nice twists to a rather shopworn premise, but not quite enough.