Directed by Chloe Okuno
Starring Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman and Burn Gorman
Moving to a new city is tough. Moving to a new country is even tougher. Add in some cabin fever and your mind is sure to play tricks on you.
Julia, an American, has moved with her husband Francis to his mother country of Romania. She doesn’t speak the language but will do what she can to support him in this new adventure. What proceeds is a Hitchcockian tale of suspense, paranoia and ultimately terror that is delivered subtly and expertly by first time feature film writer/director Chloe Okuno. Her segment in horror anthology V/H/S/94 (2021) was a standout; her first feature film stands out as well, even amongst the host of excellent horror and horror-adjacent films that came out this year.
Don’t expect overt gore or scary CGI monsters with Watcher, though. There’s a place for those things in horror films but Okuno gives us the other, more subdued side of the genre. As the tension builds, so does Julia’s inner anger. Why won’t anyone believe her? Is she truly mad or just angry?
Young actress Maika Monroe plays Julia with pathos and Karl Glusman (Love, The Neon Demon) is equally convincing as her husband, Francis. Never cold but indifferent enough to infuriate audiences, he is on screen just enough to add much needed breaks from the paranoia. Rounding out the cast is Burn Gorman, who plays a character that we see much more of as the film moves along and the tension builds. At times, we wonder if he is indeed the victim in Julia’s game of “What the fuck are you looking at?!”
At an hour and a half, Watcher is the perfect length for a fraught thriller. If it was any longer it would have been unbearable. If it was any shorter it would have felt like it needed a bit more tension.
Okuna has a bright future. Given the opportunity, she will undoubtedly go on to write and direct many thrilling films. As she rises to fame, I hope she brings cinematographer Benjamin Kirk Nielsen with her. Watcher is a beautiful film, one that not only that showcases the beauty of Bucharest but uses light and shadows to make the interior shots look unique and compelling as well.
If other horror films I have reviewed so far this year Scream is a B+, The Cursed is an A-, X is a B, You Won’t Be Alone is an A+, Hatching is an A, Firestarter is a D and Men is a B+ then Watcher is an A.