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REVIEW: "Searching"

By Eric Hillis, TheMovieWaffler.com

originally published: 08/25/2018

REVIEW: "Searching"

A few weeks ago the body of a 14-year-old schoolgirl was discovered around the corner from where I’m sitting writing this review. Within hours of the tragic discovery, two 13-year-old boys had been arrested. The police had their work simplified by a series of damning posts across social media which pointed to the guilt of the boys in question. Increasingly, when young people go missing or have their lives taken from them, police investigations are now focused more on trawling through the victim’s internet history in search of clues rather than the pavement pounding of old.

Such an idea forms the premise of writer/director Aneesh Chaganty’s feature debut Searching, the latest in the growing sub-genre of thrillers and horror movies whose narratives play out within the frame of a computer screen. Like the under-appreciated Unfriended movies, this one is also executive produced by Timur Bekmambetov, who like Michael Bay, is a filmmaker who directs awful action movies but as a hands-off producer has given us some worthwhile entries in the horror genre.

Inspired perhaps by Pixar’s UpSearching opens with a heart-breaking montage detailing the good times between David Kim (John Cho), his wife Pamela (Sara Sohn) and their young daughter Margot (in a somewhat stereotypical view of Asian-Americans, piano lessons figure heavily), until Pamela is diagnosed with cancer and eventually succumbs.

REVIEW: "Searching"

Two years after their loss, David and a now 16-year-old Margot (Michelle La) seem to enjoy a good relationship, though David appears to be a little over-protective of his teenage daughter, insisting she phone him with frequent updates on her whereabouts. One morning however David wakes to find Margot isn’t at home, and that he missed three calls from her in the middle of the night. All of his attempts to contact her fail, and checking with her school, David is told she never showed up. When he contacts Margot’s piano teacher he is shocked to learn his daughter hasn’t attended a lesson in six months, despite him giving her $100 to pay for each lesson.

With no clue as to the whereabouts of Margot, David contacts the police, and detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing), a sympathetic single parent herself, is assigned to the case. While Vick conducts her investigation, David begins one of his own, breaking into Margot’s laptop in search of leads. Mining through her online presence, David realizes how little he really knows about his daughter’s life, and begins to uncover some terrifying possibilities as to Margot’s disappearance.



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Unlike the Unfriended movies, which stick rigidly to their ‘desktop horror’ premise by playing out in real time with a static full shot of a PC screen, Searching’s action plays out over several days, with Chaganty’s camera zooming in to focus on specific onscreen details, integrating TV news reports and adding a non-diegetic score for effect. For those of us so impressed  by the technical shrewdness of Unfriended and its sequel, such tactics feel a little like cheating, and as a result Searching isn’t quite the victory of form over content those films are.

What Searching does boast is an empathetic and compelling protagonist, something sadly lacking from the Unfriended series. Thanks in no small part to a gripping performance by Cho as the nerve-wracked father, we’re on board with David’s quest from the off, sharing his frustrations at his attempt to navigate a world that’s alien to him. Cho’s David is in some ways a less judgmental, more affable version of the angry father played by George C. Scott in Paul Schrader’s Hardcore, but like Scott’s character, his exposure to his daughter’s loss of innocence causes him to strike out violently, at one point hampering his investigation by attacking a teenage boy he believes has been lying to him.

Searching will likely play most effectively to parents as it takes a very modern approach to exploiting very modern fears. In many ways it’s a contemporary update on the sort of parental terror TV movies that were so popular in the 1980s, in which kids were being abducted, murdered and generally corrupted left, right and centre. Written and directed by and starring Asian-Americans, Searching also examines the worries minority parents have regarding how well their children will adapt to and be accepted by society. First and foremost it plays on the universal fear that we never truly know our children, but as Detective Vicks reassures David, isn’t that how it’s meant to be? If Searching plays as a horror movie for parents, imagine how terrifying its teen audience will find the idea of their father trawling through their social media.

Searching

3 ½ stars out of 5

Directed by: Aneesh Chaganty. Starring: John Cho, Joseph Lee, Debra Messing, Sara Sohn







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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Live in Concert At NJPAC
(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Live in Concert. Don’t miss the fourth installment of Harry Potter in Concert when NJPAC hosts the full-length film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, projected in high-definition on a giant screen, with Oscar-nominated composer Patrick Doyle’s masterful score performed live by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 2:00pm & 7:30pm. 
Hopewell Theater To Celebrate Halloween With Fright Fest Week of Horror Films
(HOPEWELL, NJ) -- For an entire week, Hopewell Theater will celebrate Halloween with, Fright Fest, a mini fest of classic Halloween horror films from October 25 - 31, 2018. The slate of films are icons of horror cinema, and will be displayed in all their gory glory on the big screen. 
​​​​​​​The Newton Theatre Presents a Silent Film Halloween With A Live Orchestra
(NEWTON, NJ) -- The Newton Theatre presents a trio of ghostly silent films paired with the original historic orchestral scores on Saturday, October 27 at 3:00pm. Travel back to the early 1900s to cheer and hiss with Buster Keaton in The Haunted House (1921), Laurel and Hardy in Habeus Corpus (1928), and Charlie Chaplin in One A.M. (1916). Between the films, enjoy the rollicking rhythms of the early 20th century as played by The Peacherine Ragtime Orchestra, featuring favorites by Scott Joplin, Irving Berlin, and more! Fun for the whole family!
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival's Fall 2018 Lineup
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The 36th Bi-annual New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will take place at Rutgers University in New Brunswick from September 14 - October 26.  The festival showcases new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries through over 30 film screenings. The Festival will run on select Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. The festival is presented by Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies.
Count Basie Center For The Arts Hosts A Conversation With John Cusack & Screening of "Say Anything"
(RED BANK, NJ) -- The Count Basie Center For The Arts hosts a conversation with John Cusack following a screening of the eighties classic Say Anything. NOTE: Due to a scheduling conflict, John Cusack Live has been rescheduled to Sunday, October 21 at 7:00pm. All tickets will be honored on October 21.


Michael Gallagher’s terrific comedy Funny Story Premiere’s at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Friday, September 14!
Michael Gallagher’s terrific feature Funny Story Premiere’s at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Friday, September 14!
The Luring: Fear & Neurosis In Vermont
“As a kid, I was always drawn to the darkness,” said filmmaker Christopher Wells.  “I’d think, ‘Why can’t monsters protect me? If I’m friends with the monsters then I don’t have anything to fear.’”
REVIEW: "Searching"
A few weeks ago the body of a 14-year-old schoolgirl was discovered around the corner from where I’m sitting writing this review. Within hours of the tragic discovery, two 13-year-old boys had been arrested. The police had their work simplified by a series of damning posts across social media which pointed to the guilt of the boys in question. Increasingly, when young people go missing or have their lives taken from them, police investigations are now focused more on trawling through the victim’s internet history in search of clues rather than the pavement pounding of old.
REVIEW: "The Children Act"
Earlier this year saw the release of On Chesil Beach, an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel centered around a wealthy musician who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband. Now we get The Children Act, an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel centred around a wealthy musician who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband. Both are scripted by the novelist himself, and both suggest McEwan should stick to the literary world.
New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 Preview
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 runs from September 14 to October 26 on the Rutgers University Campus in New Brunswick, NJ. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will feature over 30 film screenings.  The Festival runs on select Thursday, Friday and Sunday evenings. For the complete schedule visit www.NJFilmFest.com. Here is a look at the screenings for September.

Upcoming Events

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Live in Concert At NJPAC

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Live in Concert At NJPAC

(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Live in Concert. Don’t miss the fourth installment of Harry Potter in Concert when NJPAC hosts the full-length film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, projected in high-definition on a giant screen, with Oscar-nominated composer Patrick Doyle’s masterful score performed live by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 2:00pm & 7:30pm. 


Hopewell Theater To Celebrate Halloween With Fright Fest Week of Horror Films

Hopewell Theater To Celebrate Halloween With Fright Fest Week of Horror Films

(HOPEWELL, NJ) -- For an entire week, Hopewell Theater will celebrate Halloween with, Fright Fest, a mini fest of classic Halloween horror films from October 25 - 31, 2018. The slate of films are icons of horror cinema, and will be displayed in all their gory glory on the big screen. 


​​​​​​​The Newton Theatre Presents a Silent Film Halloween With A Live Orchestra

​​​​​​​The Newton Theatre Presents a Silent Film Halloween With A Live Orchestra

(NEWTON, NJ) -- The Newton Theatre presents a trio of ghostly silent films paired with the original historic orchestral scores on Saturday, October 27 at 3:00pm. Travel back to the early 1900s to cheer and hiss with Buster Keaton in The Haunted House (1921), Laurel and Hardy in Habeus Corpus (1928), and Charlie Chaplin in One A.M. (1916). Between the films, enjoy the rollicking rhythms of the early 20th century as played by The Peacherine Ragtime Orchestra, featuring favorites by Scott Joplin, Irving Berlin, and more! Fun for the whole family!


A Look At New Jersey Film Festival's Fall 2018 Lineup

A Look At New Jersey Film Festival's Fall 2018 Lineup

(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The 36th Bi-annual New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will take place at Rutgers University in New Brunswick from September 14 - October 26.  The festival showcases new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries through over 30 film screenings. The Festival will run on select Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. The festival is presented by Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies.








Event calendar
Tuesday, Sep 25, 2018


MUSIC

Cafe Tacvba with special guest Ruen Brothers – Niu Gueis Tour 2018 @ Prudential Hall @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 8:00pm

Seuls en Scene French Theater Festival - "Gonzo Conference" @ Donald G. Drapkin Studio at Lewis Arts complex, Princeton - 8:00pm

Joan Baez @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Record Club: Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon @ Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 7:30pm


KIDS

West End Festival of the Arts- Children's Storytelling @ West End Arts Center, Long Branch - 4:00pm

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