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Watcher (2022): A Review

Watcher (2022): A Review

BRB, Buying Privacy Curtains

A young actress moves across the world to live with her boyfriend in his native country. While Julia has gotten used to receiving her fair share of inquisitive stares since leaving America, one seems to linger longer than the others. With beautiful women being decapitated all over the city, could her new neighbor be the infamous serial killer? Or is she simply losing her head? Directed by Chloe Okuno, Watcher (2022) is the type of psychological thriller that instills paranoia as the film’s events could, terrifyingly enough, happen to anyone. With strong performances from the leads, Maika Monroe and Karl Glusman, this Image Nation Abu Dhabi picture lacks surprises but powerfully delivers on its offers.

Chekhov’s Gun Unloaded 

The filmmakers realized the story in a nicely polished manner. However, it went from being easy to follow to predictable very quickly. Formulas are better left to scientists, as this one has been repeated time and again. Most notably, Sidney Sweeney’s film The Voyeurs came out a year prior to Watcher and followed virtually the same premise with more originality and flair. With that said, it follows in its predecessors’ footsteps with ease while avoiding anything new.

In Watcher, Julia, a minimally successful American actress, moves to Bucharest to live with her always-busy husband, Francis. He speaks the language but, due to work, is often apt to leave Julia to her own devices. Without any roots or connections of her own to the area, she feels lonely, isolated, and unsure of herself just as news of a serial killer breaks. Feeling a deep sense of dread and alarm bells in her head, she becomes suspicious of her watchful neighbor. Is Julia paranoid, or is her neighbor a vicious serial killer? If she’s right, could he choose her as his next victim? A straightforward game of cat and mouse transpires from that point on, leading to an uninspired climax. The director’s close attention to detail is a lovely point in this viewing experience. From clothing to furnishings to scenery, the film feels like a complete world built on anxiety, misunderstandings, and disproportions. The deliberate choice not to use subtitles forces viewers to comply with Julia’s frustrations as a transplant. Hopefully, with more experience, the creative team will become emboldened to make something we haven’t seen before.

Watcher (2022): A Review

Acting Worth Watching 

Maika Monroe and Karl Glusman were very capable leads who shared fantastic chemistry. They were a highly believable married couple with nuance and depth to their routine. Monroe took center stage as the film’s standout. She portrayed a level of anxiety, fear, and frustration with such care that it felt like it couldn’t be anything else but real. It is on the shoulders of her visceral performance that the film rests. That is not to make light of Burn Gorman’s contributions, as he is deliciously malicious in his role as the creepy neighbor. His subtle menace, dead-panned control of line delivery, and beady eye contact coalesce into a frightful figure.

Each actor worked synergistically to elevate each other’s performances and, ultimately, the barely passable script. With a hyper-fixation on the performers’ faces, the audience gets to see all of the intricate emotions play out in great detail, especially the haunting looks in their eyes. If only they had the meat in the material to be explorers instead of tour guides rehashing the familiar. 

Intentional References and Referent Power 

The cinematography was beautiful and deeply intentional. The filters, lighting design, and score worked harmoniously to guide audience reactions. It is a tightly coordinated viewing experience that uses every trick to evoke emotion. These tricks have been seen in Rear Window and elsewhere, but where this film ventures into something possibly new is somewhere between Rear Window and Tully. Julia’s sleep deprivation and deeply human, if not every day, struggles with insomnia and mental illness shake her foundations of trust, especially as her husband grows more condescending. What if she’s stalking her neighbor for no reason? Is it all in her head? Could she really be overreacting to such an extent? The dim lights and muted hues reflect Julia’s inner turmoil, while the camera tends to focus on space. Long hallways, hidden corners, and lurking shadows all warp into one immense empty feeling of unease. All of which is to say, the film captures a genuinely human level of anxiety and fear related to the situation. Julia isn’t a damsel but a very layered character with intricacies and implicit sentiments/non-verbal communication. 

Is Watcher Worth The Watch?

An unsurprising and derivative story brought to life with meticulous care and astounding talent, Watcher is a mixed bag. The performances are great, but this concept is nothing new, nor is it the best iteration of this idea. It is only worth the watch if someone adored films like Rear Window and The Voyeurs and wanted something similar. Otherwise, staring out the window could be just as entertaining. 

Available on Hulu, and AMC+.

Watcher (2022): A Review

Watcher (2022) Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Mark DeCastro is a current MFA student at LIU studying Writing and Producing for TV. He has previously completed his BA in Psychology at Johns Hopkins University with minors in Creative Writing, Film, and Theatre Studies. He hopes to pursue a career in writing for stages, screens, and shelves.