I’m usually not fond of holding mediocre efforts against a film that is exactly what it wanted to be in the first place—granted, it affects the upsurge of whatever emotion the story intends to evoke. Sadly, there’s no such upswing of any emotion whatsoever in the latest Korean thriller on Netflix. “Unlocked” has set its mind on effectively disseminating the risks of giving your smartphone unimpeded access to your life. But did it make me shudder with anxiety when I grabbed my phone after watching the film? Nope. Did it at least elevate my already prevailing fear of a creepy stranger remotely keeping an eye on my activities? Also no. Kim Tae-joon’s 2023 thriller couldn’t possibly hope to stimulate a very relevant discourse with a narrative that goes out of its reasonable way to ludicrously aid the antagonist’s agenda. If we are to truly fear the ghoulish lunatic, we have to at least be presented with all the rational ways he could’ve continued to terrorize his victims. In any case, since you’re already here and you want your doubts answered, let me see what I can do to help you out.
‘Unlocked’ Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
Na-mi’s breezy days combine the contemporary normalcies of working at a low-paying startup, distracting herself from the looming plight of her responsibilities by spending time with her friends, having a social media side gig, and helping out her father at his coffee shop. One fine and fun night of excessive drinking leads to an inebriated Na-mi leaving her phone behind on the bus ride home. She passes out on the terrace only to be shaken awake by her friend. Na-mi’s panic at the frightful realization that she has misplaced her phone is quite understandable for a 21st-century young adult who can’t function without a smartphone. Lucky for Na-mi, her friend has already talked to a woman who claims to have found her phone. What neither of them is aware of is that the person they have been speaking to is a creepy man using a voice changer app to lure Na-mi into his eerie trap. An unexpected bout of rain unearths the decomposing corpse of a woman in the woods nearby. The investigative officer, Ji-man, is struggling to look for evidence around the place when a vial of plant food is discovered buried in the ground. He traces the vial back to a plum tree in the woods. A tree that his son Jun-yeong had planted on his 10th birthday. Estranged from his son for over half a decade, Ji-man doesn’t have the foggiest clue about his current whereabouts. What Ji-man and his associate detective suspect is that his son must have gotten mixed up with some thugs and gone down a gloomy path.
How Does The Stalker Hack Na-mi’s Phone?
Ever since he got his hands on the missing phone, the man has been stalking Na-mi’s social media accounts to find a clue about her passcode. Frustrated after several failed attempts, he bangs the phone on the side of the table and cracks its screen. The next day, Na-mi receives a call from the stalker, who is pretending to be a woman. She is informed that her phone’s screen has been damaged and that the phone has been sent to a repair store, from which Na-mi is to retrieve it. Anxious to reunite with her phone after what feels like an eternity, Na-mi struts her way to a shady building and walks up the stairs to reach an even shadier repair store. The place is devoid of any other customers, and her phone lies steady on the counter. A man wearing a cap and a mask approaches Na-mi and asks her to fill out a form before he can proceed to fix the screen. In a rush to get her hands on the phone, Na-mi doesn’t think twice before offering up the passcode to the stranger. Away from her eyes, the stalker breaks into her phone, transfers the entirety of her data to another in order to create a replica, and finally fixes her phone with the help of a YouTube tutorial. Unsuspecting, Na-mi goes about her days without the slightest clue that the stalker has installed a spyware program on her phone and is keeping a watchful eye on her every move. Within a few days, he learns every little detail of Na-mi’s everyday life. What games she plays, which people she is close to, what she says, and even how she looks saying it is now under the vile observation of the ominous stalker, who keeps a note of every detail.
Why Does Ji-Man Suspect Jun-Yeong?
Ji-man wasn’t aware that his wife had been in touch with his son. When he spies on her text messages and discovers the conversations they have had, he finds a way to ask his wife for Jun-yeong’s current location. His wife may be reluctant to help him out, but his partner manages to locate Jun-yeong’s residence. Ji-man warily walks into the gloomy apartment, and the first thing he lays eyes on are a bunch of phones. A further inspection of the room’s contents reveals a vial of nail paint of the same shade that was on the corpse’s nails, a business card with Oh Jun-yeong’s name on it, a card from a plastic surgeon (about which I will make preposterous speculation later in the article), and most importantly, a picture of the dead girl the cops have found in the woods. What rattles Ji-man the most is finding several exhaustive notes detailing the lives of multiple women. He is smart enough to document his findings on his phone, but his endeavor is cut short when he receives a cryptic text from Jun-yeong himself. Jun-yeong has been watching Ji-man’s every move and is now trying to intimidate him by sending pictures of him in the apartment. Even when he rushes out of the apartment, Jun-yeong continues to blast Ji-man’s phone with an incessant flood of pictures. Ji-man and his partner are now determined to track down Jun-yeong, even though what they should ideally do is report it to the department. By the time I had gotten to this stage, I had given up hope of the narrative making any sense whatsoever.
How Does Jun-Yeong Get Closer To Na-mi?
Being able to access Na-mi’s day-to-day movements allowed Jun-yeong to locate her father’s cafe. The second time Na-mi meets her stalker is when he comes into the cafe and orders a plumade, something that is not on the menu. Na-mi is taken aback by the unusual order placed by someone who claims to have had the same drink a year before. But at the same time, seeing him play the same game that she obsessively plays on her phone does draw Na-mi to Jun-yeong. When her father comes in and is surprised to find a man drinking the plumade that he has exclusively made for his daughter, Na-mi is quick to dismiss his concerns. Jun-yeong is soon seen in the establishment again, only this time he is here to buy some records that he has found on Na-mi’s Instagram business. Na-mi’s father goes along with his ruse of being a regular while sensing that there’s something not quite right about him. Na-mi, on the other hand, is too busy being thrilled to exchange the records for tickets to a game she is interested in. While dropping her off at her place, his father voices his concerns about this new man, who is suddenly showing up way too often. He wants her to be wary of the guy and inquires about the pocket knife that he has given her for protection. With a noticeable crush on Jun-yeong, Na-mi gives the cold shoulder to her father, who is making some pretty well-grounded observations about the strange man.
How Does Jun-Yeong Isolate Na-Mi?
Jun-yeong’s ominous agenda surpasses that of simple stalking. He has kept a close eye on Na-mi’s closest connections and has hatched a plan to destroy her relationship with the people that genuinely care about her. The first thorn to eliminate from his gruesome path is her father. Using the replica that practically functions the same as Na-mi’s phone, Jun-yeong sends a text to Na-mi’s father and sends him a link to an app. While he is reluctant to download the app that can cause his phone to fall prey to viruses, he ends up clicking on the link anyway, as Jun-yeong tells him that the app will help him track Na-mi’s location. As soon as he falls into Jun-yeong’s trap, he gets sent a picture of a parcel waiting outside his door. Luring him out with the picture of the package, Jun-yeong tackles him and holds him hostage, in his own home.
Na-mi has recently been given a raise at her job, and her boss has asked her to keep quiet about the same. The company has taken on a new project that will ensure that the other employees get a raise as well. Na-mi clicks a gleeful picture with her coworkers, celebrating the big project that is coming their way. Her best friend Eun-joo has arrived at Na-mi’s apartment to stay over for a few days—giving Jun-yeong a unique opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. When they’re both asleep, Jun-yeong posts the picture Na-mi had clicked with her coworkers and that too from her secret business account that nobody other than Eun-joo is supposed to know about. He also turns her alarm off remotely to make her wake up late. Not only does she lose her mind over being extremely late for work, but she is also given the shock of a lifetime when she looks at her social media and finds that picture posted with a humiliating caption. Panting in acute agony, Na-mi rushes to work, hoping that her boss will believe her. But having the entire business destroyed with a single post has clearly made it impossible for the people at her company to have an open mind. Miserable Na-mi is thrown out of the office scornfully. As she walks to the cyber security cell along with Eun-Joo, she doesn’t harbor any hope of finding the hacker. And her cynicism is proven right when an agent turns the case on her and asks her to do the impossible and provide evidence that her phone was, in fact, hacked. Having all the doors closed in her face; panicky Na-mi gets in touch with Jun-yeong, who has previously told her that he works in cyber security.
Desperate for an answer, Na-mi and Eun-joo invite Jun-yeong to the cafe. They are told by the fake cyber guy that Na-mi’s phone has been invaded by spyware. In secret, however, Jun-yeong fills Na-mi’s ears with devious lies. She is told that the spyware that is on her phone can’t be accessed remotely and that the perpetrator has to be physically present in her room to be able to post the picture. Not knowing what to believe in her horrendous state of mind, Na-mi resorts to accusing Eun-joo of the crime. Heartbroken to be met with her best friend’s suspicion, Eun-joo walks out of the cafe and departs from Na-mi’s life at the same time. Jun-yeong’s monstrous design has been successful in taking everything away from Na-mi and throwing her into a pit of complete isolation and despair. Meanwhile, local law enforcement has found seven more corpses in the woods. Ji-man’s agitated search for his murderous son continues to be the only thing he immerses himself in.
How Do Ji-man And Na-Mi Plan To Trap Jun-yeong?
Wretched Na-mi mourns the devastation of her life in the lonesome refuge of her room. In a moment of desolate rage, she throws her phone on the ground, and seeing the cracked screen, something clicks. She remembers the time she had to pick up her phone from the repair store and how she had to share her passcode to get the screen replaced. Wondering if the creepy store was where the spyware was installed on her phone, Na-mi sets out to pay a visit to the man who worked there. Meanwhile, Ji-man and his partner have found their way to Jun-yeong’s repair store, only to see that the place has been left flooded and the documents have been destroyed. Jun-yeong had previously wrecked up his own apartment in a similar manner when his father had scoured the place. Anguished Na-mi walks into the eerie room and is alarmed to run into two people that she doesn’t know are cops.
After making their uncomfortable introductions, the three combine their brains to probe further into decoding the mystery. Na-mi gets to know that the man who has been impersonating a cybersecurity consultant is the same man who fixed her phone screen. Ji-man, on the other hand, has already recognized Na-mi as the next victim, whose details have been inscribed in Jun-yeong’s obsessive notes. Ji-man chooses not to correct Na-mi when she assumes that Jun-yeong’s ultimate agenda is to collect explicit videos of his victims and sell those on the internet. Na-mi offers to be the bait and draw in Jun-yeong to have him captured by the two. Seriously? A cop is putting a civilian’s life at risk in an unlawful stake-out, and another cop is just standing there, enabling him. Give me a break! In any case, their plan fails to be fruitful when the man who shows up turns out to be someone who doesn’t even resemble the actual Jun-yeong, and a befuddled Ji-man lets him go.
What Is the Real Identity Of The Erratic Killer?
When the cops make another unbelievably unprofessional mistake and drop Na-mi off at her father’s house without checking it out to make sure that it is safe, Na-mi practically walks into the maw of the monster. Pretty soon, she is met with the mortifying realization that her father may have been hurt by Jun-yeong. Terrified, Na-mi walks out of her room, only to stumble on the psychotic perp himself. Jun-yeong doesn’t take very long to intimidate her into sending a text to Ji-man, reassuring him that she is safe so as to keep him from interrupting Jun-yeong’s grisly business.
Frozen in fear, Na-mi fails to make use of her pocketknife. When she walks into the bathroom, she is introduced to the soul-crushing sight of her unconscious, captive father in the bathtub, about 80% submerged in water. She is instructed to tape up her limbs if she wishes to save her father’s life. But even after restricting her, Jun-yeong continues to agonize the poor girl by torturing her father. But that is nothing compared to the horror he inflicts on her next. Na-mi is overpowered by the beastly killer and drowns in the same bathtub, and that too, with her father drowning right underneath her. What the killer doesn’t know is that Na-mi had given the cops a secret “No texts. Only calls” instruction before heading to her father’s house. The text that Jun-yeong has made her send has only alarmed the cops, and they are on their way to the house. Before he can think up a plan to escape, Ji-man and his partner break into the house.
While his partner saves Na-mi’s life and resuscitates her father into consciousness, Ji-man beats up the perp and implores him to tell the truth about his identity. He does play with Ji-man’s emotions a little at first by keeping up the ruse of being Jun-yeong, but he soon decides to make his unashamed confession. Jun-yeong was, in fact, his first victim, whom he killed and later stole the identity of. He has been living under Jun-yeong’s name ever since and has been making use of his untainted records to go after the other victims. The killer’s claims are confirmed by a picture of the real Jun-yeong’s corpse and the notes that were taken detailing his life. While Ji-man holds a gun to the disturbingly smiling face of the perp, Na-mi musters the strength to walk up to him and shoot him in the chest.
In the gloomy aftermath of the jarring event, the police identify the man as a citizen of Korea who wasn’t registered at birth. The nation cumulatively waits for the vicious killer to regain his consciousness and give an explanation as to who he really is and why he tormented and killed innocents. The draining ordeal unsurprisingly going viral makes Na-mi a social media sensation who is now being stalked by people who clearly don’t know where the line even is. From the murderer’s conversation with Na-mi, we get to hear a bizarre rule he had set for his victims. They would only be allowed to go if someone inquired about their well-being, even without the convenience of just doing it over a text or a phone call. But the way he had premeditated the process of isolating his victims could have been his psychotic way of unleashing his wrath for being alone his entire life.
Now is the time for me to wow you all with my absurd speculation about the killer’s identity. If you are to extend your generosity by keeping an open mind and considering that nothing is impossible in a narrative this insufferable, what I’m about to say may not even seem all that stretched. Remember the card from the plastic surgeon that Ji-man found in Jun-yeong’s apartment? What if, and bear with me, the killer was Jun-yeong himself but only with a surgically altered face? I mean, he did mention having a strained relationship with his father, even when Ji-man wasn’t there to listen to him. The picture of the deceased Jun-yeong could’ve easily been a fake. This will, however, remain a mystery unless there’s a sequel. But not only will I continue to hope that there won’t be an extension of this experience, but I will also strive to wash my mind of the current one.