Watcher (2022)

Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman, Burn Gorman, Tudor Petrut,
A young American woman moves with her husband to Bucharest, and begins to suspect that a stranger who watches her from the apartment building across the street may be a local serial killer decapitating women.
  • 6.3 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2022-06-22 Added:
  • Zack Ford, Writer:
  • Chloe Okuno, Director:
  • Derek Dauchy, John Finemore, Aaron Kaplan, Roy Lee, Producer:

Trailer:

7 / 10

Nervy take on a well-worn concept

"Watcher" follows Julia, an American who moves to Bucharest with her husband, Francis. While Francis is fluent in the language--his mother is Romanian--Julia is not, and struggles with the language barrier. Even worse, she also finds herself being watched by a man in the adjacent apartment building, and comes to believe that not only is he stalking her, but that he is a serial killer.

It goes without saying that "Watcher" is playing with a familiar concept--this is a premise we have seen in a large number of films, most famously in Hitchcock's "Rear Window," but "Watcher" also pays respects to Roman Polanski's "apartment" films, most notably (and effectively) "The Tenant" (the other two being "Rosemary' Baby" and "Repulsion"). What makes it stand out, however, is that it is well-acted, visually elegant, and at times throttling in its suspense. There are a number of scenes in this film that (no pun intended) grab you by the throat.

"Watcher" is the breed of film that toes the line regarding whether or not the fears and paranoias of the protagonist are legitimate, or the product of something else, but director Chloe Okuno telegraphs it intelligently by positioning the audience in tandem with Julia--as we watch her sink into her isolation, we are isolated alongside her--and it is because of this that her fears play out as believable, despite her husband's skepticism. The writing here is both subtle and smart, and there are a few key moments that are as dislocating to the viewer as they are to the protagonist; the screenplay is multi-pronged in a way that makes the audience question not what they are seeing, but rather, what it is indicative of. Julia's disconnect from the language only helps to reinforce a sense of suffocation, and the gloomy, rain-soaked Art Deco architecture of the city only amplifies the sense of unease.

Of course, none of this would work without a believable lead, and Maika Monroe plays this character very effectively. Burn Gorman is also extremely effective as the mysterious creep across the way. The film's finale, though tense, is still fairly downbeat (which is the status quo in this film), but it offers enough grand guignol to be memorable and shocking. In the end, while "Watcher" is not necessarily revelatory, it is a well-crafted, nervy take on a well-worn concept. There are some standout moments in this film that make it worth watching for any genre fan. 7/10.

6 / 10

A tense, slow burn

I found this thriller pretty enjoyable. The acting was phenomenal, particulacy from Maika, our lead. Some of these sequences were so anxiety-inducing, even when our lead is just walking down the street I couldn't help but tense up.

My only main disappointment was the ending. While it was building towards a satisfying conclusion, it just ends abruptly. I wanted more from it. But maybe that just shows how well everything was before hand. Also some awkward dialogue but that's just me nitpicking, it's not that big of a deal.

Overall, while I don't think I'll just check this one out again, I had a good time with it and I'm excited to see what else the director while be making next!

8 / 10

Stranger In a Strange Land. What's Real and What Isn't?

For a majority of this film's running time, it was cruising along at about a 6 rating for me, based on the fine performances by all, and the cool Romanian atmosphere. For me, also during this time, the film seemed more of a psychological drama than a thriller. It was not scary or even really suspenseful. It just gave more questions than answers during this time. What it lacks on the front end in chills, it makes up for in mood and beauty. The actresses are pretty here and the Bucharest setting provides its own unique attractiveness.

Many might say this movie a slow burn. It is not. It plods along, but only somewhat, and not necessarily in a bad way.

The ending. The last ten minutes or so. This is where the rating gets ratcheted up to an 8.

You've been gently led along, and then, POW!! Here's the ending! The true finale. You've been thinking to yourself, so this is it, this is the way it's going to be, okay, I guess I can believe that, and the ending punches you right in the face. It holds you right up and delivers a devastating blow.

The ending truly makes this movie. It doesn't disappoint. Enjoy the scenery until then.

7 / 10

cat and mouse

Greetings again from the darkness. It's tough being the new kid. Moving to a new city with no friends is always a challenge. That's especially true for a grown-up when the new city is in a country where you don't speak the language - and you gave up your career to support your spouse who got a promotion to his home country. The first feature film from writer-director Chloe Okuno and co-writer Zack Ford is a bit of a throwback thriller that reminded me of some of Brian DePalma's work in the 1970's and 1980's, while also recalling other genre films.

Maika Monroe (IT FOLLOWS, 2014) stars as Julia, wife of Francis (Karl Glusman, LOVE, 2015). Their new apartment has a large picture window that overlooks the run-down tenement located across the street. Julia immediately notices the shadowed figure of a man who appears to be watching her. Yes, the set-up reminds us of Hitchcock's classic REAR WINDOW, though this one heads off in a different direction. The pressures of Francis' new job keep him working long hours, which means Julia is left alone a great deal of the time. As a former actor, now 're-evaluating' her career path, Julia spends the days walking the local streets and listening to language tapes. See, their new place is in Bucharest, Romania, and the language gap plays a huge role in casting her as an outsider in all social interactions.

But wait, there's more! Local news reports detail a serial killer nicknamed "Spider" has been murdering and beheading women. So when Julia begins seeing that shadowy figure from the window everywhere she goes, she assumes he's following/stalking her. Is he the serial killer? Perhaps the question is, who is the cat and who is the mouse? While making the point that the film so desperately wants to make, it does so in the least believable manner. Husband Francis dismisses her paranoia as that of a lonely woman - a reaction that seems absurd given the presence of a serial killer (Grace Kelly believed Jimmy Stewart!). Fortunately, filmmaker Okuno and the performance of Ms. Monroe prevent this from becoming an eye-roller for viewers.

As Julia and the "watcher" (played with a creepy stoicism by Burn Gorman, CRIMSON PEAK, 2015) continue to cross paths, Francis asks, "Is he watching you, or is he watching the person who is watching him?" It's this attitude that every woman will recognize ... being accused of having it be "all in her head", and having concerns minimized by men (spouses, cops, doctors, etc). Ms. Monroe gives a subdued, quiet performance that works terrifically in this setting. She kind of glows on screen and excels at conveying the feeling of isolation that Julia experiences, some of it enhanced by her husband's approach.

There are a couple of terrific scenes featuring Julia and her neighbor Irina (Madalina Anea), a single woman who understands Julia's trepidation. Other excellent scenes include Julia going solo to the movie theater to watch CHARADE, a film from which Okuno obviously draws inspiration; and best of all, a scene on the train where Julia and the watcher come face to face and have one of the more uncomfortable conversations (with a wonderful prop) we'll likely ever see on screen. Both actors are superb here.

The cinematography of Benjamin Kirk Nielsen and the score from Nathan Halpern perfectly correspond to the slow-burn pacing that lacks the typical 'jump-scares' that have become commonplace in thrillers. Despite some 'iffy' dialogue, the film is effective in isolating Julia and presenting the fear that women live with, while often having their feelings minimized. A strong ending sets up Chloe Okuno as a filmmaker to watch.

In theaters June 3, 2022 and On Demand June 21, 2022.

7 / 10

Not flashy. Purely, and compellingly, psychological.

By merit of concept alone, there really isn't anything new here. It's the writing and character work that causes Watcher to soar above standard thriller genre fare.

First-rate performances are given by the entire cast. They all embody their characters with humanity and make them instantly unique and often sympathetic.

Julia is a woman who has moved with her husband to a country where she does not know the language and has no personal connections. Her sense of loneliness is made palpable very early on and it makes the unease she feels extremely understandable as she becomes more and more convinced that she has a stalker.

This screenplay is astoundingly good. Each scene is written so carefully so as to ensure that both doubt and faith in Julia's perspective is built to equal degrees. The lack of clarity starts to drive a wedge through her marriage, and it's heartbreaking to watch. The writing makes for a thrilling, engaging watch, even in the slow-paced scenes.

I always like a good thriller, and I always LOVE a good thriller that also has smart writing and emotionally resonant character work.

This is one of those thrillers. It's not flashy. It's purely psychological, and I found it absolutely riveting from start to finish.