Watcher (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – A young woman moves into a new apartment with her fiancé only to be tormented by the feeling that she is being stalked by an unseen watcher in an adjacent building.

My Take – Having lived in a foreign land (albeit for a very short period of time) without any knowledge of the language and its customs, I can most definitely relate to the experience being called challenging and at times of the verge of horrifying. And I can truly imagine how difficult it might be from a female perceptive especially when male gaze and a stalker is thrown into the equation.

This first feature film from writer-director Chloe Okuno (Storm Drain segment from V/H/S/94) plays truly to the situation in the form of an immersive nerve-shredder with slow-growing horrors by the minute. Inspired by old-school thrillers, where atmosphere takes precedence over story, this one is a slow-burn story that is predictable yet works fairly well.

Yes, the set-up is quite reminiscent of Hitchcock‘s classic Rear Window (1954), but does enough to stand out with its psychologically unnerving situation. Sure, the patient is testy for its 91 minutes run time, but Okuno‘s stellar direction and Maika Monroe‘s captivating on-edge performance manages to elevate an already intriguing and immersive stalker story comfortably above water.

The story follows Julia (Maika Monroe), an American, who moves to Bucharest with her husband, Francis (Karl Glusman) to settle into his new job and their new apartment that has a large picture window that overlooks the run-down tenement located across the street. But while Francis is fluent in the language, Julia is not, and struggles with the barrier.

Even worse, she also finds herself being watched by a man (Burn Gorman) in the adjacent apartment building, and comes to believe that he is the serial killer, dubbed Spider by the local news, who has been murdering and beheading women around the city.

So when Julia begins seeing that shadowy figure from the window everywhere she goes, she begins to fear that he’s stalking her in order to make her his next victim. And as tensions grow, we see Julia experience a range of believable, human responses to what’s unfolding around her.

Right of the bat, the 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. As the pressures of Francis’ new job keep him working long hours, 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. But the language gap plays a huge role in casting her as an outsider in all social interactions and the screenplay is multi-pronged in a way that sees Julia’s disconnect only reinforce a sense of suffocation, and amplifies the sense of unease.

This one belongs to the breed of films that toes the line regarding whether or not the fears and paranoia of the protagonist are legitimate, or the product of something else, and director Chloe Okuno telegraphs it intelligently by positioning the audience in tandem with Julia as we watch her sink into her isolation. The lack of clarity starts to drive a wedge through her marriage, and it’s heartbreaking to watch.

The film’s story plays an important and interesting trick with shadowy figure’s character. The shadowy mystery around the film’s titular watcher instantly piques your interest and that cold visage of him watching in the window is just chilling.

It’s really smart how director Okuno is patient in fully revealing the man’s identity as it lets his presence stay haunting and unsettling. After all, just seeing his shadow in the window is enough gives viewers goosebumps and director Okuno crafts some strong scares and suspense that really seep deep under your skin.

Sure, you’ll know the face of evil when you first see it, a good half-hour before the film indulges our confirmation bias, but the bloody turn the final act takes feels immensely satisfying in how it feels like the culmination of a nightmare coming to life and allows Julia an empowering moment to revel in the truth coming to light by taking action. It’s memorably gut-wrenching and wild, something that all great thrillers strive to achieve with their finale.

Of course, none of this would work without a believable lead, and Maika Monroe plays this character very effectively. Returning to proper horror business nearly a decade after she established herself as a bewitching scream queen of modern horror in The Guest (2014) and It Follows (2014), Monroe’s performance makes you instantly connect with Julie’s growing frustration and isolation in this setting and only becomes more compelling when she’s forced to face this strange man watching her from a window.

Burn Gorman is also extremely effective as the mysterious creep by employing a stillness and a seldom-raised voice. In smaller roles, Karl Glusman, Madalina Anea and Ciubuciu Bogdan Alexandru are also good. On the whole, ‘Watcher’ is a solidly creepy horror thriller with a small but hyper-efficient plot.

Directed –

Starring – Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman, Burn Gorman

Rated – R

Run Time – 91 minutes

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