In 1954 Alfred Hitchcock opened the door to voyeurism in film with Rear Window. You could argue Voyeuristic films have been around well before the classic Hitchcock film, you would be correct. Watching strangers from windows would become a popular pastime in the thriller and horror genres. Now Chloe Okuno’s Watcher wants you to ‘Watch’ , hooks your curiosity only to leave you disappointed looking for more.
Maika Munroe is that young wife who is by her husband’s (Karl Glusman) side as he follows his job. Lonely in a strange land , is she going crazy or simply anxiety kicking in? Okuno is no stranger to horror or Psychological thriller as her directorial feature debut is being called. The American filmmaker directed one of the segments from 2021 horror anthology V/H/S 94 which is currently on Shudder. That short segment ‘Drain Storm’ was considered one of the best, Hail Raatma!
In Watcher, Julia (Munroe) relocates from the US to Romania with her husband Francis (Glusman)for his new job. She gives up her own acting career, finding herself frequently alone and very little to do. One night she decides to do people watching from her window and from the adjoining apartment block she spots a shadowy figure looks back at her. Day after day, night after night trepidation kicks in that her neighbour is watching her every move.
Things intensify when Julia heads to the cinema and supermarket that now the neighbour is following her. Francis struggles to believe her leaving no one to turn too. Was this the same neighbour or simply someone else? Is that neighbour also ‘The Spider’ a serial killer who is stalking the city and brutally killing young women?
Watcher is brimming with classic genre cinema tropes. These works effectively well, driving the suspense, playing on our paranoia on who maybe who, whose doing what. What really helps the film is Julia is now living in a foreign country which she cannot speak the lingo. Her frustrations to communicate with her neighbours annoy her as she has no clue what they are saying. Julia feels alienated in Romania and is she fast becoming The Spider’s next potential victim?
The one big positive for this film is it’s simplicity. The narrative doesn’t try to complicate what we’re watching, that simpleness is also it’s downfall. The fear and uneasiness can be seen in the likes of the near empty theatre, the ‘stalker’ sits right behind Julia. This scene reminds us of Audrey Hepburn’s face of terror in Charade (1963). Also her stalker in the supermarket when we see him his face is blurred, both scenes a reminder danger is edging closer. That lurking is unsettling and prettifying as that mystery still haunts her. As for that simplicity it makes what comes very predictable and fails to take advantage of those opportunities to trigger her hysteria.
Maika Monroe is fantastic and convincing as Julia. Drowning in her vulnerability and emotions, unravelling into insanity. She does come with a sense of determination that will keep you focused on the slow burning narrative.
Watcher is a character driven thriller, is Julia making a mole hill out of nothing? Are the people around her manipulating her? What is the true fear of the film? Is it what might happen? Shadows are the windows to our souls and Chloe Okuna’s 95 minute chiller may be a tad disappointing, she has left her mark that she will be a name to reckon with in horror, years to come.
Psychological Thriller | 15 | USA, 2022 | Cinema | 4th November 2022 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir. Chloe Okuno | Maika Munro, Karl Glusman, Burn Gorman, Madalina Anea