Review: Cyberthriller “Unlocked” explores the dark side of technology


Tolu Oyesanya

Above is a digitally constructed image of Netflix’s 2023 film “Unlocked.” In this article, Tolu Oyesanya gives a summary and analysis of the film. The commendable cinematography “takes the audience on a suspenseful journey through the dangers of technology and the consequences of oversharing,” Oyesanya said.

Tolu Oyesanya, Reporter

“Unlocked” is a 2023 Netflix film about a serial killer who stalks women through their phones.


“Unlocked” follows a girl named Na-mi who forgets her phone on the bus, which is then taken by a man named Jun-yeong. Using cunning and deceitful tricks, he finds out information about Na-mi, such as her birthday, friends, and places she frequents. Na-mi uses her friend Eun-ju’s phone to make plans to get her phone back. The original plan was to meet up at Cafe Mizi (Na-mi’s dad’s cafe), but Jun-yeong purposely breaks her phone. He calls her, using a voice-changer app, to tell her that he broke it and she should go pick it up at a repair shop.

That’s where the scheme starts.

Na-mi goes to the repair shop and Jun-yeong, posing as an employee, asks her to fill out a form that includes writing down her password. She’s reluctant, but still does it. He is wearing a face mask to conceal his identity from her. While she waits for him to complete the repairs, he surreptitiously installs spyware on her phone and paired it with one of his devices. This gives him unfettered access to her phone’s camera, microphone, and everything she does on it, which allows him to remotely stalk her.

And that’s what he does, for several days.

Jun-yeong becomes a regular visitor to Cafe Mizi to stalk Na-mi. Na-mi thinks kindly of him because he pretends to share common interests with her. She has no clue that he was controlling her phone.

Na-mi discovers that she has been hacked when her Instagram account, which is linked to her phone, is used to post negative comments about the company she worked for. This causes her to lose her job, and she and her best friend decide to go to Jun-yeong for help, unaware that he is the hacker. Jun-yeong tells them that spyware is installed on her phone.

Meanwhile, Jun-yeong’s father Ji-man, a detective, has been working on a case alongside his partner. There was a body found in the forest near a tree Jun-yeong had planted as a kid. More bodies were found a few days later. Evidence points towards Jun-yeong being the killer. Jun-yeong and his father hadn’t been in contact for seven years due to a falling-out.

Detective Ji-man on the site of the ongoing case. Credit: Netflix

Na-mi ends up working with the two detectives when they realize that Jun-yeong is definitely the serial killer, and that Na-mi is his next target. However, they let Na-mi believe Jun-yeong is nothing more than a petty stalker. 

Na-mi is at her dad’s house when she hears a strange buzzing sound coming from her phone, and her camera starts taking pictures on its own. Suddenly, Jun-yeong jumps out from behind the sofa and Na-mi is paralyzed with fear. He restrains Na-mi by taping her legs, mouth, and hands, and places her in an almost-full bathtub alongside her father. They both start drowning.

Na-mi drowning in the bathtub with her father. Credit: Netflix

Unbeknownst to Jun-yeong, the detectives have been on his trail. They arrive at the house and corner him, just in time to save Na-mi and her father.

Ji-man is wracked with emotional turmoil as he grapples with the weight of his son’s heinous crimes. He can’t help but wonder if he played a role in his son’s turn to darkness.

But then comes the plot twist.

It turns out that this is not the real Jun-yeong — the real Jun-yeong is dead.

It is revealed that the real Jun-yeong was the serial killer’s first victim, and the killer had taken his identity. The detective realizes this after discovering a collection of phones that ‘Jun-yeong’ had kept, each one from each of his victims. The other victims had been subjected to the same repair shop scheme as her, losing their phones and falling prey to his manipulations.

With this revelation, the police are able to apprehend the imposter and put him on trial for the murders in the forest. 

The movie ends with the point of view of someone’s camera taking a zoomed-in photo of Na-mi at the cafe, and she turns toward the camera with an uneasy expression.


While not the first, “Unlocked” distinguishes itself from other thriller movies by incorporating a timely cyber theme. While many films in this genre follow the traditional tropes of serial killers or home invasions, “Unlocked” capitalizes on the fears and concerns of the modern world. It is a reminder that the fear of technology can be just as unsettling as any traditional horror movie premise.

Throughout the film, the director’s cinematography is commendable; Kim Tae-joon uses eerie selfie perspective shots that mimic the fear of being watched.

But while “Unlocked” was thrilling, the characters lacked depth. 

As for the main character Na-mi and her best friend, we didn’t learn much about them. They were portrayed as average, bland girls. Na-mi’s life was not at all complex; she didn’t seem to have much to lose. After she lost her job, the stakes became pretty low, thus making her character uninteresting. 

The serial killer, ‘Jun-yeong’ was written in a way that made him come across as uninteresting and unthreatening, with very little presence or menace. The portrayal of his characters largely contrasts to the intensity of his crimes. Additionally, he had no motive for his crimes. The writers missed the chance to create an interesting plotline that would make Jun-yeong a more dynamic character. 

The characters’ actions made the movie a bit unrealistic. At some point in the movie, the two detectives had the killer cornered, but let him go because they didn’t recognize him. They didn’t ask him for his ID or question him. Na-mi was also gullible – who would go into a shady repair shop because a stranger told them to? Secondly, Na-mi refused to heed her dad’s warnings when he told her that ‘Jun-yeong’ was suspicious.

The premise of “Unlocked’ had great potential but the execution was too simplistic and predictable (other than the major plot twist).

Despite this, I don’t regret watching it.

“Unlocked” takes the audience on a suspenseful journey through the dangers of technology and the consequences of oversharing. The film’s lesson is clear: in an increasingly technology-dependent world, it’s important to be cautious and mindful of the information we share online. With clever plot twists, “Unlocked” serves as a cautionary tale that will leave you thinking about your phone use long after the credits roll.

Rating: 7/10