Monday, April 1, 2024

Thank You For Flying Delta


Sometimes, timelines align in such a way that you get to watch a film under the absolute perfect circumstances. I'm thinking of how I had just moved into a probably haunted apartment when I first sat down to be terrified by Pulse, or how I had to watch a (perfectly legally) downloaded version of The Descent on a laptop in such a way that I had my face pressed against the screen. I got to see the horrid Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on the big screen in Moscow but with a British speaker dubbing over all of the actors' dialogue. It made a bad movie perfectly enjoyable in the most bizarre of all ways.

Searching was a thriller I had on my watch list forever, but it never seemed to land on any streaming site. Instead, something better happened: Delta Airlines had it on its list, and as I settled in for a six hour flight, watching a movie set on a laptop on a screen just slightly smaller than that seemed all too right.

Quick Plot: Remember how Pixar's Up opened with a beautifully tragic montage that followed the full cycle of a marriage? Searching does something similar, as we dive into David and Pamela Kim's laptop screen and watch their happy years raising baby Margot, scary ones battling Pamela's lymphoma, elation over her remission, and devastation when cancer returns.

Now a moody high school senior, Margot grows distant from David, who seems to bury his head in his project management career to avoid talking about Pamela. One day, Margot doesn't come home. David waits a little longer than he probably should to contact the police, but that's what happens when you don't really know your daughter anymore. 

Like The Den or that Modern Family episode set on Claire's laptop, Searching's point of view is David's screen. That can mean Facebook windows, cam communities, Skype calls, or occasionally, news reports. Through it all, John Cho creates a truly natural dad at the end of his rope acting straight to a computer monitor. 

Written by Sev Ohanian and Aneesh Chaganty (the latter of whom also directed), Searching is a tight thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat (safely buckled in, in my case). It's a mystery that by its very limitations, can only give you so many clues at a time, forcing you to be in step with David's investigation. Even when you think you're smarter than the movie, it packs a few more tricks to throw you off the trail. 

High Points
Having now seen several movies in the computer POV style, I know that it's not easy to keep the visuals engaging (I still don't understand the adoration for the stiff Host). Whether it's Cho's skills in front of the camera, Chaganty's behind, or the editing team of Will Merrick and NIcholas D. Johnson, Searching remains riveting.

Low Points

I had ONE detail gnawing at me from about 45 minutes in, but Searching's finale reveals that plot point to be an integral part of the reveal so you know what? I've got nothing. This is an excellently put together film

Lessons Learned

See, all you people who look at my computer screen and wince, SEE: having dozens of tabs open rather than clicking and backtracking is MUCH MORE USEFUL AN EXPERIENCE FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED THANK YOU VERY MUCH


I don't know that I'd say Searching is worth an expensive 3+ hour Delta plane ride, but it IS an incredibly engrossing and satisfying little watch. Maybe one day it will stream somewhere on land. When such a time comes, hop on.


  1. Two things: one, Searching honestly doesn't sound like my kind of flick but your enthusiasm for it is convincing me so I'm adding it to my list. And two, I had to look up Pulse because I had never heard of it, and now I need to clarify: are you referring to the 1988, 2001, or 2006 version??? Who knew there were three versions (and maybe even more I don't know of yet) of a film I've never heard about at all!

    1. For Pulse, the 2001 Japanese film. The 2006 American remake is one of the worst remakes of that era, which is saying a LOT. The 2001 film is one that you watch with the lights off. It really seeps in!

    2. Great, thanks! That's the only one that looked appealing to me so I added it to my list. Japan's early 2000's horror movie scene is interesting -- I'm always fascinated by big trends (especially those rooted geographically: Seattle grunge scene, Italian giallo films, the New French Extremity movement, etc) that just kind of pop up and then eventually vanish. I always wonder what were the driving factors that created such a massive trend, what changed for it to end, and what happened to all the people involved in it once it ended? Are they still involved in the industry, did some get sick of it and move on, etc?

      But back to Pulse: have you seen the 1988 version? With your penchant for 80's horror I thought it was possible that it was the version you were psyched on (although I don't think I can see you saying you were "terrified" by that version, unless you were 7 when you saw it, lol).

    3. I've actually never even HEARD of the 1988 Pulse! I don't see it streaming anywhere, but I'm going to keep my eye out.

      And yes, horror trends, especially when they're very geographical, are fascinating. For the US, I think horror is often the first place where you start to feel cultural shifts. Torture porn post 9/11, Regan conservatism in the '80s slashers, and so on. It's true elsewhere, just harder for me to place it without having the same level of cultural awareness. Early 2000s Japan has a lot of that early technology shifts in horror, and Pulse is probably one of the first (and still best) horror films to tap into what the internet could mean for society. I'll be really curious to hear how it plays for you 20+ years later.

  2. I found the 1988 Pulse on

    which I know appears to be a super sketchy site at first glance but I've used it for years (with an ad blocker, mind you) with no issues. But also, I'm in Canada and I don't know if it works in the US, so, no idea if that's of any use to you!

    Anyway, I watched the 2001 Pulse last week, and I'm sad to say I wasn't keen on it! I thought there were a handful of great, genuinely creepy moments, and I loved the idea of building a horror movie around loneliness in the modern world, but mostly I found it slow and boring, with too many characters and not enough development on any of them, and I didn't like the execution of the great concept. Oh, and the CGI was bad too, which I had expected due to its vintage but I guess I still wasn't quite prepared for. Have you watched it recently? I wonder how it would hold up for you, but I also don't like the idea of re-watching films that may not hold up well due to being very "of their time" or whatever -- I feel like, if a person had a great experience with something the first time around, why risk ruining that good experience, you know? So, if you do re-watch it, I'm interested to know how you feel about it now versus back then, but I also don't encourage you to do that!

    1. I can understand Pulse feeling sluggish. I've actually watched it three times in total, several years in between each. The SECOND time, I felt a bit like you did in terms of the pacing, but oddly enough, it turned around for me on the third viewing some years later. I do think it suffers from not having a really strong central character. The male lead is introduced about halfway through the movie, if memory serves, and it's hard to get your hooks in him (while the female never really feels that interesting). I'll say that for Pulse, it's a movie that benefited from the pandemic for me. There was something very powerful about thinking of it as exploring that deep loneliness that sort of grows around us without anyone realizing until it's too late.

      I guess that's part of where I land on in the question of revisiting something of its time. Sometimes, it very much suffers, while in other cases, circumstances can KEEP changing to make it come around again. I also think it can be a great exercise in understanding your own taste. Why did I LOVE this in, say, 2006, but not 2011, but then again in 2021? It's a fun way to think about how you as a viewer evolve.