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Movie Review: The Watchers


“We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.” - Iris Murdoch

Many speak of nepotism as if it’s nothing but a bad thing. There are cases like the kartrashians shoving their talentless ten year old on stage to butcher The Lion King but then there’s instances like Denzel Washington and his son, John David Washington or Kirk Douglas and Michael Douglas, Donald Sutherland and Kiefer Sutherland and so on. It’s too early to say whether this particular case is a positive one or not but from the loins of controversial filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan has sprung a daughter, Ishana Night Shyamalan who makes her directorial debut with, The Watchers. Even the greats have their mistake projects so I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt and waiting for future stories from her. That said, her debut is anything but ideal, unfortunately. 

Dakota Fanning as Mina discovering her new surroundings.

Let’s talk about the positives first. Story wise this feels different than most these days in its genre. Much like her father’s missteps, even they are almost always fresh, original ideas that he himself conjures up. He makes the attempt which is what I will always admire about him most. In the age of remakes and sequels M. Night is one of the few that can say with complete honesty that what he chooses to focus on are new ideas and that is worth a lot in my book. While much of The Watchers just doesn’t work, it feels different, the attempt at something different is apparent. 

The cinematography is a highlight with dark, dreary lighting and coloring. It creates a moody, creepy vibe that permeates throughout the cursed forest currently holding the characters within its mythical grasp. The story is a blend of reality meets fantasy and the setting really grounds everything into a single vision where you believe creatures like this might actually exist. Utilizing shadow and light it creates an environment that feels both methodical and otherworldly. It’s the contrast of a random structure in the middle of an ancient woodland that highlights the dream-like quality these characters find themselves stuck within. 

What makes classics like Alien and Jaws work so well? Among other things, they conceal their monsters allowing the imagination of the audience to fill in the blanks. By hiding them it makes the fear of what is still concealed feel so much more intense. We can perceive computer generated imagery. No matter how well done the effects are, it can almost always be noticed. While a fully revealed monster can still be effective, it’s the hidden creature that is able to reach for us ever so closer simply because as far as our imaginations are concerned, it still feels quite real. Director Ishana Night Shyamalan keeps her creatures mysterious, hidden in darkness and shadow and in the deep mental recesses of our brains where the creatures can thrive with a realism that is otherwise immediately lost when fully revealed on screen. In this regard she does a phenomenal job of showing just enough for us to build off of while still allowing the stories of these fabled creatures to paint more of what she chooses to withhold. 

Sadly the story is a mess. The characters are poorly structured and the mythos is stuck in the past along with any kind of tension or genuine scares. These are supposed to be intimidating monsters but the pacing and lack of any real conclusion makes it a boring, slog of a movie. With such a slow story you hope for the big climax to really deliver and much like the rest of the movie, the conclusion is, to put it kindly, underwhelming. None of the promise is utilized keeping the movie in a constant state of monotony up until the very end. While I don’t believe the intention of the movie is to simply scare, it is trying to tell a story, but it’s undeniable this is meant to be scary and it just never is. This is a one note thriller that fails to thrill. 

The Watchers is a clash of the modern world and the ancient. In the middle of it all is Mina, a young woman trying to find meaning in a world where she blames herself for the death of her own mother. Alongside her are a unique collection of fellow lost souls trapped by the forest and the creatures that dwell within it. Like a reality show, the people stuck in this structure must perform for the mythical beings who watch them with an almost obsessive kind of attention. Not desiring a life of isolation and threat, these newly acquainted strangers must band together if they hope to find a way out. 

The Watchers wants to be so much more and simply can’t reach it. The PG-13 rating holds it back from really frightening its audience and the characters never break out from what their names are. They don’t matter but I’m expected to care because I’m human and so are they. It’s just not enough. It’s not enough information, not enough character development and not enough scares to keep any kind of interest in what’s happening to these people. I didn’t worry about them whatsoever and the big reveal left me as disinterested as the rest of it. Simply put, The Watchers never earns our time or money as it remains a fairytale so earnestly trying to be a horror story and never achieving anything worthy of being considered entertaining or even mildly interesting. I’ve said it before about other movies, sometimes a movie is so dull or lifeless that it doesn’t even do enough to be called a bad movie. It just exists and I have no desire to concern myself with its existence any longer. 

Rated PG-13 For: violence, terror and some thematic elements

Runtime: 102 minutes

After Credits Scene: No

Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Georgina Campbell, Oliver Finnegan, Olwen Fouéré

Directed By: Ishana Night Shyamalan

Out of 10

Story: 5/ Acting: 7/ Directing: 6/ Visuals: 5

OVERALL: 4.5/10

Buy to Own: No.


Check out the trailer below:


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