The Watcher

“Wherever you go, the plague follows.”

I remember reading this article a little while ago about how the biggest issue zombie movies have nowadays is that they are constantly set in a world that doesn’t know what zombies are. They are such a massive part of everyday culture that, if a zombie apocalypse happened, every single one of us would know what to do. These movies make it tough to suspend disbelief because they ignore that fact.

I would say the same thing is true when it comes to haunted house horrors and the like. We’ve all seen enough of them to know that if, when you were buying a house, the estate agent said: “Full disclosure, people died in this house under less-than-normal circumstances,” every single one of us would yell “you can fuck right off” as we ran away as fast as possible. So why can’t idiots in these films do the same?

Okay, because there’d be no movie, that’s why. But still, my point stands.

After a bizarre death or two in a big, old, suburban house, a young couple think they’ve found the deal of a lifetime with an amazing price for their dream home. As quickly as they have moved their stuff in and gotten comfortable, it appears that something is trying to scare them away.

After a series of strange occurrences plague the foolish pair (seriously, get the hell out, already), things seem to escalate when a strange presence starts to leave sinister, threatening notes attached to a variety of horrifying props – including several animal corpses – that start to really make a deep and personal mark on the couple. Add the crazy-ass neighbours and stomach churning hallucinations into the mix and the new kids on this block have some real troubles.

Now, the only question worth answering is whether or not the couple will come to their senses and run; or figure out what seems to be haunting them before they suffer the same fate as the previous occupiers.

Writer and first-time director Ryan Rothmaier has put together a more than functional thriller that, while a little short on scares, is still very creepy and much more fun to watch than I was willing to give it credit for at the start. What began as an exercise in eye-rolling, as the tropes rolled in thick and fast, soon had me engaged with its characters and glued to the screen wondering what was going to happen – and if everyone was going to make it out alive.

The tale unfolds at a decent pace, which is a necessity for any ninety minute horror/thriller that feeds us the story beats a little heavy-handedly at first. With its talk of ravens, ghosts and hallucinations all crammed in at the start, making the opening half an hour a little top heavy, it soon irons itself out. It lets you enjoy the last half of the film for the straight-to-video silliness that it is.

Cast-wise, The Watcher has put together a decent list for the one-sheet. From TV and low budget horror regular Erin Cahill, and (House, X-Men: First Class and The Blacklist alum) Edi Gathegi as the new couple in the old neighbourhood, right up to Pet Sematary‘s Denise Crosby hamming it up as the nosy parker next door; everyone does a fine job in convincing me that there are stakes in what they are going through.

So often with these films you’ll see the cast just phoning in the lines. A lot of the time this is because the film is more about what the director wants to do with some gory new makeup he’s discovered. But because The Watcher is more about the atmosphere and the human cost of what is going on in the house that may or may not be haunted, the best performances possible is less of a request and more a requirement for this movie. Thankfully, everyone rallies around this need and the film is all the better for it.

The Watcher isn’t going to set the world ablaze any time soon; but with a decent story, good direction and a few fun ideas, it should definitely be on your list to see once it hits Shudder or Netflix. There are much worse ways to spend an hour and a half.

The Watcher is out now on DVD for US audiences, available from Monarch Home Entertainment.

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