“I’ve always wanted to live an aimless existence in Bucharest; smoking cigarettes and scaring my neighbors with my hysterics.”
Origin/Director: United Arab Emirates, USA, Romania/Chloe Okuno
Viewings Tally: I realize there are literally over 20 movie titles with the word “Watcher” in them. There’s even a Netflix series coming out soon called “The Watcher.” (How original.) And, I realize the recent stabs at cinematic voyeurism (last year’s The Woman in the Window) have failed at summoning anything close to Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Yet, I try these creepy, Peeping Tom tropes anyway. This one was highly recommended by friends via my Letterboxd account.
Synopsis: As a serial killer stalks the city, Julia – a young actress who just moved to town with her husband – notices a mysterious stranger watching her from across the street. [Letterboxd]
Reely Bernie’s Take: It is rare for a thriller/horror to surprise me at every corner, providing explanations that actually make sense without going over the top or showing the cards too soon. The familiar ingredients are there: foreign country, language barrier, dimwit husband, and a wife with too much idle time on her hands. Instead of going loud with jump scares and an abrasive film score, Director Chloe Okuno kindles subtlety and minimalistic approaches to instill a brooding anxiety only the camera knows best.
Ironically, our poor protagonist played by Maika Monroe gets followed just as much as she got followed in It Follows (2014). But, what’s most horrific about this movie is how all of her pleas get buried by the overprivileged, Romanian male urbanites. This is the kind of misogynistic horror the recent flick, Men (2022), couldn’t sustain in its second half. Watcher astonishes on and on, up to its fulfilling ending.
There are echoes of Don’t Look Now (1973) obsession, The Vanishing (1988) unveiling of the “bad guy” we get to meet sooner than we want to, and even the freaking “do-I-open-the-window-shade-or-not?” ploy seen in the Twilight Zone!
This one sincerely caught me off guard. After the preliminary exposition setup, it becomes unpredictable but valid in its decision making as each layer of mystery becomes clearer and clearer. There’s more to the story than voyeurism, paranoia, and fear. There’s an undercurrent of denial, and that can be most frightening.
The Shot that Won’t Let Go:
Final Score: 4.5 harmless silhouettes out of 5
Check this out on Apple TV or Amazon Prime. Definitely worth it!
Happy Reely Bernie Horror Fest,