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Home > “The Watchers” (2024): A Review

“The Watchers” (2024): A Review

Who’s Watching “The Watchers”?

Written and directed by Ishana Night Shyamalan, daughter of legendary director M. Night Shyamalan, The Watchers follows 28-year-old Mina (Dakota Fanning), who becomes stranded in a remote forest in Western Ireland. While trying to seek help, Mina stumbles across an old woman named Madeline (Olwen Fouéré), who takes her back to a bunker-esque building in the woods. There, Mina meets two others who have been stranded, Cira (Georgina Campbell) and Daniel (Oliver Finnegan), and learns that they are being held captive by entities known as the Watchers. Every night, the Watchers arrive to observe the humans inside the building, while anyone still outside by sundown is killed. Determined to find a way out, Mina begins breaking the rules Madeline has laid out to keep everyone safe, leading to conflict and risking their lives.

Like Father, Like Daughter

Being Ishana’s first time directing a feature film after having directed a few episodes of the television series Servant, she demonstrates with The Watchers that she has talent behind the camera. Shyamalan brings a gothic and gloomy atmosphere that emulates the almost fairy tale nature of the story. From the aesthetics of the woods to the bunker, to even the brief scenes that take place in a city, it all has a gloomy feel that is unique and specific. It almost makes The Watchers the perfect rainy day movie.

Although The Watchers never goes too far with the horror aspects, Shyamalan is able to build an eeriness that is effectively creepy at times. In particular, when the movie begins to unravel the Watchers and reveal more of them, the movie is successful at building suspense and tension in these sequences. Too often, when a film tries to hide the creatures to build suspense, the payoff is rarely as satisfying as the mystery. Surprisingly, The Watchers doesn’t fall into the same pitfalls as countless other movies. There’s numerous teases and glimpses viewers get to see of the Watchers, as well as how the characters describe them to the newcomer before they’re fully revealed. These teases only help pull in the audience’s interest to the story and situation.

The Trademark Twist

M. Night Shyamalan practically built his career around being a filmmaker who always injects a plot twist at the end of his thrillers. Whether it’s Bruce Willis being dead all along in The Sixth Sense or Samuel L. Jackson being the true villain in Unbreakable, audiences have come to expect a big reveal by the end of his films. At the same time, it can almost feel as if his movies are reliant on the plot twist to carry the narrative and interest throughout. Ishana follows slightly in her father’s footsteps by including a few reveals by the end of the film, but as a whole, the movie doesn’t feel as if it’s reliant on these key moments.

The trailers for The Watchers entice audiences with a mystery around what the Watchers are, but this information is revealed early on in the movie in a way that makes it a nonchalant piece of information. In a way, it releases some of the stress and burden on the narrative, as it doesn’t become solely on having a third-act plot twist, similar to how the monsters in The Village were treated. 

However, despite how well-crafted the first two acts are, the third act starts to unravel everything that was established. The reveals by the end of the movie bog down what could have been a satisfying conclusion, choosing to make odd story choices. The ending gets slightly convoluted and messy, ultimately leaving a sour taste by the time the credits roll. 

The Protagonist

Since the narrative focuses on expanding the world of The Watchers and developing the fantasy land, the characters felt like they were forgotten about. Mina’s character drags everything down due to her dry and flat characterization. Dakota Fanning does her best with the source material she’s given, but her character is simply the least interesting out of the four in the bunker. Even with the tragic backstory Mina is given, her character still has little personality and interest. It’s easier at the start of the movie to connect with her; however, once she comes into contact with the other three people in the woods, it’s hard not to picture a better movie with one of the others as the lead. They’re all more lively and have interesting traits about them that only dilute Mina even more. 

As The Watchers starts strong but ultimately struggles by the end, it leaves the film unfortunately as an uneven mess. Since the positives and strengths don’t outweigh the negatives, it does make it hard to recommend anyone shell out money for an overpriced movie ticket. The best experience for the film will likely be to wait for it to drop on a streaming service, hold out for a rainy, gloomy fall afternoon, dim all the lights, and curl up on the couch with snacks. 

Moving forward with her career, Ishana shows promise that she could be a powerhouse in the industry, following after her father. But, unfortunately, The Watchers doesn’t start her film career on solid footing. 

The Watchers is currently playing in theaters.

The Watchers (2024) Official Warner Bros. Pictures Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Mason Kupiainen is a recent Butler University graduate with a degree in Creative Media and Entertainment. His work has been published in Butler Collegiate, The Mall, and Byte BSU. Along with written work, he has a videography portfolio with Indy Blue Video, Byte BSU, and Ball Bearings.

Cailen Fienemann is a current student at Le Moyne College pursuing her BA in English and Communications with a film studies minor and a creative writing concentration.  Though uncertain about her career end-goals, any job that allows her to write is a cherished one indeed.