Watcher

Everything seems nice enough. The neighbors are friendly. The apartment is modern and clean. Her husband has a good job. But to Julia (Maika Monroe), something is wrong – everything is wrong. 

From the very instant we meet Julia in a taxi with her husband, Francis (Karl Glusman), her discomfort jumps right off the screen. The couple is on their way to their new apartment in Bucharest, Romania having moved there due to Francis’s recent promotion for a marketing company. Francis’s mother is Romanian. He speaks the language fluently. Though he is from America, he has this direct connection to his new home. Julia has no such connection. She knows nothing of the country, doesn’t speak a word of Romanian, and doesn’t have a job. Even the casual conversation between Francis and the cabbie causes her anxiety. And with the absence of any subtitles, Julia’s ignorance is also our own (unless, of course, you are fluent in Romanian).

"director Chloe Okuno knows exactly how to toy with her audience, and she does so quite brilliantly"


What are they saying? Are they talking about her? Are Francis’s translations honest?

The couple arrives at their new apartment, but it doesn’t feel anything like a home. And it doesn’t take long for Julia to notice a man staring in from the building across the street. Despite that, she tries to get comfortable in her new country, but everywhere she goes, she feels like she is being watched – being followed. To make matters worse, her and Francis learn of a serial killer called “the Spider” killing young women. No doubt suffering the effects of isolation, Julia becomes seemingly paranoid and obsessed with the man across the street. She is convinced he is watching her, but others constantly question her. She even questions herself. But when she waves to him one night, he waves back. 

Julia tries to get others to help her scare him off, but nothing can be done. The man, who’s name we find out to be is Daniel Weber (Burn Gorman) is harmless. In fact, he calls the police on Julia for stalking and harassing him. Perhaps it is all just one big misunderstanding. But it isn’t to Julia. It isn’t to the audience. Nothing feels right about it boiled down to something so simple... Watcher

The subjectiveness of Watcher puts us right in the middle of Julia’s psyche. Everything – and I mean everything - becomes dangerous. Simple, everyday tasks like getting groceries, seeing a movie, or just walking into her own apartment have a heart-pounding weight to it. Every step, every breath, and every knock on the door are amplified with a seemingly unbearable anxiety. The Hitchcockian suspense coupled with Lynchian sound design pushes the viewer to their limits with anticipation. The turns around the corners are extremely cautious. Interactions with everyday people are shot with an unnerving trepidation. The swell of Nathan Halpern’s score makes every moment feel like the film itself is about to explode. In her feature film debut, director Chloe Okuno knows exactly how to toy with her audience, and she does so quite brilliantly. 

Watcher is a horror film that keeps it simple. It sets the tone early and keeps the audience on the edge of their seat. Monroe is absolutely captivating and nails the nuances of her troubled character. Overall, the film capitalizes on its simplicity and straight-forwardness, making it a good, old-fashioned psychological thriller with a great payoff. 

Watcher is now playing in select theaters.

4/5 stars

 

Film Details

Watcher

MPAA Rating: R for some bloody violence, language, and some sexual material/nudity.
Runtime:
91 mins
Director
: Chloe Okuno
Writer:
Chloe Okuno
Cast:
Maika Monroe; Karl Glusman; Burn Gorman
Genre
: Drama | Thriller | Horror
Tagline:
Evil Wants to Be Seen.
Memorable Movie Quote: "This guy has been watching us since we moved in."
Theatrical Distributor:
IFC Midnight
Official Site: https://www.ifcfilms.com/films/watcher
Release Date:
June 3, 2022
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: In WATCHER, Julia (Maika Monroe) joins her husband (Karl Glusman) when he relocates to his family’s native Romania for a new job. Having recently abandoned her acting career, she finds herself frequently alone and unoccupied. One night, people-watching from her picture window, she spots a vague figure in an adjacent building, who seems to be looking back at her. Soon after, while alone at a local movie theater, Julia’s sense of being watched intensifies, and she becomes certain she’s being followed — could it be the same unknown neighbor? Meanwhile, a serial killer known as The Spider stalks the city.

Art

Watcher