Thursday, 26 January 2023

Watcher (2022)

This is a 1990's style thriller pulled together by relative newbie director/writer Chloe Okuno which has been (eventually) pushed out to Mubi, Shudder (UK) and Amazon Prime Video for streaming - and is well worth a look.

An American actress arrives in Romania with her husband, who has been offered a good opportunity for work. He has come from Romania originally and they had been living in the USA prior to this switch. All seems well at first and they move into an apartment which is overlooked by apartments opposite. Think Hitchcock's Rear Window or more recently, the very similar in many ways, The Voyeurs.

She's bored to tears each day as he goes to work long hours and leaves her alone and unstimulated in a new country with no friends or anything to do. She strikes up a friendship with a girl who lives in the apartment next door, but it's quite shallow. When they are out with his friends and work colleagues, try as she might to learn the language, everyone around her is speaking in Romanian, excluding her, building on her isolation. Her husband tries to include her, but it's a tricky situation.

The greater concern for her though, is that there's a man standing in the window of an apartment across the way who seems to be constantly staring at her, whenever it is dark, no lights on, so she can't see him clearly. And of course, whenever husband is home, he's not there! And furthermore, it seems to take them three-quarters of the film to work out that perhaps they should have curtains up at their apartment-wide huge windows!

Simultaneously, there's a serial killer on the loose who is lopping young girls' heads off, spookily enough, about the same age as Julia, our increasingly paranoid starlet. Francis, the husband, tries to appease her for a large part of the film, but doesn't really believe her, which eventually leads to tension in the relationship. We're led to believe of course, that the bloke across the way is the likely predator but when The Spider (as the press had dubbed the serial killer) is caught, she, and we, are let off the hook a bit - and she's able to relax slightly. But she's still spooked by odd-ball's presence, especially when he starts following her!

Maika Monroe (It Follows, The Guest) plays Julia very well as her anxiety increases, apparent paranoia runs away with her, nobody believes her and, of course, with the fears possibly all in her head. The elements for a pretty taught thriller. Karl Glusman (Love, Greyhound) as Francis does a decent enough job in support, but is certainly second-fiddle to Monroe. We can certainly see who has the limelight in pretty much every scene, the director encouraging the viewer to stay with Julia and feel her anxiety. Burn Gorman (The Dark Knight Rises) plays the slimy, creepy looking bloke who she believes is following her (and possibly the bloke in the window watching her, she thinks) and really looks the part, to add to the tension.

The rest of the film approaches edge-of-the-seat at times, but it's also slow in parts too. It's well constructed though and the reveals are well-paced with enough clues as to what's going on during the show. A little predictable, I guess, but if you're a fan of 90's thrillers, you'll be used to that. Doesn't take away anything from the enjoyment and ride.

The film is quite nicely shot, with good use of lighting, shadows, camera-angles and shallow depth of field. A lot of it is inside the apartment block but we do also get a flavour of what Bucharest is like, their culture and climate. But yes, it's been done before many times and this doesn't particularly stand out in any particular way - it's just a good fun thriller which is an enjoyable watch. Recommended.

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