Watcher (2022) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Watcher (2022) Review

Horrorific content by adrian on June 15th, 2022 | Movie Review | Slow Burn, Killer, Thriller, Maniac, Isolation, Stalker, Thrill Kill

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It's about a woman who is engrossed in paranoia and the idea that someone is stalking her.

Watcher was directed by Chloe Okuno (V/H/S/94) and stars Maika Monroe (Flashback, Greta, and Tau), Karl Glusman (Wounds, Ratter, and The Neon Demon), Burn Gorman (Crimson Peak), Tudor PetruGabriela ButucMadalina AneaCristina DeleanuBogdan FarcaDaniel Nuta, and Ioana Abur (Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm).

Watcher (2022) Review

The feeling of paranoia can be consuming and all-encompassing. It can start with a simple sense of unease and quickly snowball into something much more sinister. When you're in an unfamiliar environment, your mind is on high alert, looking for any sign that something is wrong. Everything seems threatening, and you can't trust anyone. You become obsessed with the idea that someone is out to get you and that they're just waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Your heart races, and your palms start to sweat. You can't think straight, and every move feels like it could be your last. You're constantly afraid, never knowing when the other shoe will drop. Welcome to paranoia, which is masterfully presented in 'Watcher.'

Director Chloe Okuno's feature debut draws inspiration from directors like Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock, creating a suspenseful thriller focused on the paranoia and claustrophobia experienced by an isolated woman struggling to adjust to a new country.

Julia, an American, moves to Romania with her husband Francis for his job. With Francis working long hours, Julia has to adjust to a new country and culture by herself, which is made difficult by the language barrier. Since she was left alone all day and at night, Julia has felt an eerie sense of someone watching her. This paranoia increased when she discovered a killer named Spider who had been decapitating women near her. Is Julia being followed, or is she just feeling lonely and out of place?

Okuno's script, written with Zack Ford, keeps the film's narrative straightforward. However, this particular subgenre's familiar aspects and cliches are all present. The husband seems to listen to his wife's concerns about their safety for only a few minutes before blowing them off as if she's being paranoid and simply seeking attention. The neighbors around them are becoming more hostile and think the American is causing trouble--except for one sexy female neighbor who looks like she might be in danger herself. The police's dismissal of the serial killer leaves the public vulnerable. "Gaslighting," "voyeurism," and other tactics make the situation even more dangerous.

Okuno is very good at making people feel uneasy with a simple idea. The excellent sound design and constantly claustrophobic music by Nathan Halpern add a lot to the scary mood. Nora Dumitrescu's production design and Benjamin Kirk Nielsen's cinematography work together to create a spooky atmosphere, with shadows playing a significant role. Okuno staging keeps the potential stalker out of sight, always hiding in the shadows. Although we are not given subtitles for the Romanian dialogue, Okuno's direction and the film's cast sell the effectiveness of this otherwise straightforward thriller. Cleverly, this leaves us feeling just as isolated as Julia herself.

The most critical part of Watcher is Monroe's performance. Without much characterization in the script, it's up to Monroe to make us care about Julia's story. She quickly provides rooting interest with the right balance of vulnerability and savvy smarts. A supporting part by Burn Gorman livens up the back half as a neighbor convinced Julia is stalking him, imbuing the perfect blend of shy friendliness, concern, and creepy ambiguity.

Worth Watching? 

'Watcher' is not interested in action or sequences but rather the psychological unraveling of the heroine. Its critical success lies in its ability to evoke feelings of paranoia and claustrophobia in the viewer. Okuno masterfully uses techniques borrowed from other films to create a slow-burning psychological thriller that comes to a satisfying conclusion.

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