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The Watchers (A Movie Review)


Starring Dakota Fanning, Georgina Campbell, Oliver Finnegan, Olwen Fouéré, Alistair Brammer, John Lynch, Siobhan Hewlett, Hannah Dargan, Emily Dargan, Michelle Hlongwane, Anthony Morris, Shane O'Regan, Jim Tighe, Morgan Bailey-Rocks, Zarima McDermott, Christian Bailey-Rocks, Éabha Connolly, Hannah Howland, Kya Brame and Ffion Haf.

Screenplay by Ishana Night Shyamalan.

Directed by Ishana Night Shyamalan.

Distributed by New Line Cinema. 102 minutes. Rated PG-13.

The Watchers shows that first-time writer/director Ishana Night Shyamalan has learned a lot about horror filmmaking from her father (and her producer on this project), M. Night Shyamalan. Unfortunately, she has learned his weaknesses, indulgences and storytelling gaffes as well as his undoubted skill at camera work and setting a suspenseful mood.

Sadly, The Watchers has much more in common with dad’s The Village or Knock at the Cabin than it does The Sixth Sense. As so often happens in her father’s body of work, she starts out with a pretty terrific concept which slowly comes apart the more we learn about it.

Perhaps it is even unfair to compare Ishana’s movie with her famous father’s body of work. After all, she is her own artist. However, The Watchers feels so much like an M. Night Shyamalan film – and honestly, one of his lesser ones – that it’s hard not to make the connection. Thematically, tone-wise, the character arcs, the unnecessary trick ending – it all feels oddly familiar. The only major difference is that it is set and filmed in Ireland rather than the Philadelphia area, which is M. Night’s normal stomping grounds.

The film is based on a novel of the same title by A.M. Shine, and while I have no proof of this, I’ve rarely heard an author’s name which sounds more like a pseudonym than that one. The basic storyline is pretty common stuff, a young Irish girl named Mina (Dakota Fanning) is driving through the countryside when her car breaks down in the middle of a mysterious, secluded wooded area. She gets out looking for help and is soon lost.

She finally finds a home – of sorts – with three other people living there (Georgina Campbell, Oliver Finnegan and Olwen Fouéré) who have also been lost in the woods for quite a while. They explain to her that there are strange creatures in the woods that come out at night, and they have to stay inside or risk death after dark. The home also has a huge window in the front which has a one-way mirror, through which the creatures observe the humans at night, finding entertainment and education through their situation.

Not the most original horror concept, but one with some interesting kinks and the potential for some real scares. The film does have a very real, isolated feeling of paranoia which can be very effective in the early going. Too bad they eventually have to explain what is actually going on, which gets more and more preposterous as things go on, to the point that the audience is just shaking its head in disbelief.

As a technical filmmaker, Ishana Night Shyamalan does have a certain amount of skill and potential. (It is worth noting that dad, beyond being the producer, also apparently acted as assistant director during part of the filming.) However, I think her best move would be to try to distance herself from dad’s work and try to find her own voice as a filmmaker.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2024 All rights reserved. Posted: June 7, 2024.


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