Directed by Tae-joon Kim, the Korean thriller “Unlocked” introduces us to a psychopathic antagonist who likes living a life of anonymity and makes use of technology to execute his sinister plans. Experts often say that anyone who has gone through traumatic experiences in their childhood is more prone to developing obsessive tendencies. There is no particular parameter that triggers such behavioral anomalies, and it happens due to such a wide array of things that it becomes almost impossible for a normal person to ascertain whether somebody is at risk of suffering from such a disorder. The antagonist of the film, “Unlocked,” was one such character who wanted to have control over people’s lives. He got an adrenaline rush when he had access to their private moments, when he was able to stalk them, and it made him feel like he was the “master of the roster.” Lee Na-mi had dropped her phone while returning from a party, and our sociopathic killer took it with him.
When Lee Na-mi’s friend, Eun-Joo, called her in the morning, the killer picked up the phone and used a prerecorded automated voice to have a conversation with her. The automated voice was that of a female, so Lee Na-mi’s friend had no way of ascertaining the true identity of the killer. Na-mi got in touch with the killer and told him to meet her at the Mizi cafe, which was owned by her father. At the last moment, the killer told her that he wouldn’t be able to come to drop off the phone as, accidentally, he had broken it and had already left it at a repair shop called Woo Repair. When Na-mi discovered that the expense had already been covered, she was taken aback because it was not every day that an unknown person went to such lengths. Woo repair shop was owned by the son of a detective named Ji-Man, though at that time, Na-mi didn’t know about it. Meanwhile, Ji-man, at that time, was investigating a gruesome murder, where he found substantial evidence that pointed toward the possibility of his own son, Woo Jun-Yeong, being involved in the crime. The mutilated body of the victim was found near the tree that the detective had once planted with his son. But Ji-Man couldn’t believe that his son was capable of committing such a terrible crime, even though he hadn’t been in touch with him for the past seven years and didn’t know what he was up to in his life.
The killer, who we now believed to be Ji-Man’s son, had taken the phone to be repaired so that he could make Na-Mi unlock it. He had installed a spyware software in her device, allowing him to track her movements secretly and keep an eye on her at all times through her phone camera. Na-Mi was not technologically savvy, but she spent a great deal of her time on her phone. She belonged to that generation of people who felt that it was their duty to update each and every event of their lives on social media and who perpetually lived inside the virtual bubble that they had created for themselves.
The killer, after installing the software on her phone, proceeded to the next step, where he wanted to make sure that he alienated Na-mi from her family and friends. This was a very important step, as a lot of times, we as a third party, can perceive danger and have a better understanding of things as compared to the victim, who is often being manipulated. The killer started visiting Na-mi’s Cafe and told her his name was Oh Jun-Yeong. He was very sure that she would not be able to connect the dots and realize that he was the same guy who was present in the repair shop. The killer was wearing a mask when he met Na-mi in the repair shop, and when he went to the cafe, he told her that he worked for a digital security company on purpose, as he knew that she would require his services in the future.
The first thing that the killer did was kidnap Na-mi’s father, and then he posted defamatory comments from Na-mi’s account about her job. The company where Na-mi worked suffered a huge loss of reputation, and she was asked to resign from her post. Na-mi had called the killer to help her catch the hacker, as she knew that he worked in the office of the digital sheriff. The killer seized the opportunity and created a rift between Na-mi and her best friend, telling her that the spyware couldn’t be installed remotely and that it was the job of the person who was with her physically. Na-mi had spent the previous day with Eun-Joo, so by default, she had to entertain the possibility that she was the one who had backstabbed her.
Na-mi had a sort of epiphany and realized that the spyware bug could have been installed on her phone when the stranger gave it to the repair shop. She went to the Woo repair shop and met Ji-Man, who was already looking for evidence there. Na-mi realized that Oh Jun-Yeong, who had met her at her cafe, and Ji-man’s son could be the same person. She called the office of the digital sheriff, and her doubts strengthened as she got to know that no person by the name of Oh Jun-Yeong was there. She and Ji-Man set a trap for the killer, and they waited for him to fall prey to it. When the killer came, Ji-Man followed him, believing him to be his son, but he was shocked to realize that he had caught hold of some other person by accident. Ji-Man wasn’t able to decipher how his son could not take the bait, as he didn’t know until then that it was not his son who was killing people.
The killer was already a step ahead of the law enforcement organizations, and he knew that one day, the police would come after him. The modus operandi that the killer followed was that he zeroed in on a likely target, discovered their weakness, created an entire chart of their behavioral and mental patterns, then murdered them and, in many cases, stole their identity. The killer had stalked Woo Jun-Yeong earlier, just like he was keeping track of Na-mi. The killer had gotten to know his weak spots, and he realized that he would make an easy target because he was already in an emotionally vulnerable state.
After that incident, every time he killed someone, he purposefully left clues that pointed to Woo Jun-Yeong. Woo Jun-Yeong blamed himself for his mother’s illness, and he had a lot of problems with his own father, who had been quite condescending towards him. Ji-Man felt guilty, knowing that if he and his son had been on good terms, none of this would have happened, and his son would still be alive. There was no specific reason for the killer, who was probably in his mid-twenties, to go on a killing spree and wreak havoc on the lives of innocent people who had done him no wrong. He got sadistic pleasure from feeling that sense of control and seeing the victims suffer. He was a psychopath who didn’t feel any guilt or remorse for his actions until the very end. He was an extremely egocentric being who lacked any sort of empathy and didn’t have even one meaningful relationship that he would have wanted to hold onto. It was not a one-time thing for him, as he did it on an everyday basis, and he liked living his life in such anonymity. It gave him the utmost gratification when he saw fear in the eyes of his victims. He liked the voice of their screams, and it felt like it nourished his soul to see them suffer.
Na-mi shot the killer in the end, but we never got to know his real identity as he was one of the unregistered people living in South Korea. The killer was still alive, and probably in the sequel to “Unlocked,” we would get to know more about him and what happened in his past that contributed towards making him a person with such deranged sensibilities. The people realized that it could have happened to any one of them, and it also pointed toward the necessity of building a society that understands the importance of mental health and caters to it before things get out of hand.