movie reviews
The Watchers

The Watched

Ishana Shyamalan has made a film that is almost impossible to watch.

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Whether you're into horror films with a supernatural edge, an occult twist, the unexplainable lurking just beyond the edge of the scene or not, the premise of The Watched, the directorial and screenwriting debut of M. Night Shyamalan's daughter, Ishana, is pretty solid, if only from a visual, artificially delineated angle.

Five strangers stand in a concrete building in a dark, murky forest and present themselves to a giant glass wall that is like a mirror to them. They can only see themselves and each other, but they know that the glass is completely transparent from the outside. And there are guests on the other side, mortal, malevolent, enigmatic guests, who expect these people to introduce themselves, even impersonate them.

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This is the core idea of The Watched, and in the very, very few moments that actually work in Ishana Shyamalan's mildly horrifying film (for all the wrong reasons), it is this scenario that grabs your attention and refuses to let go.

But while this scenario takes up quite a bit of the trailer, it's a dwindling little part of the film that too quickly, too obtusely and too ineffectively attempts to needlessly expand its own mythology of "who", "what" and "why", draining the premise of its inherent mystery as quickly as you can say "The Happening".

The monster under the bed is exposed with a vengeance, the rules of the game explained over and over again, and delivered by uneven performances, to say the least, from even Dakota Fanning, who is always a force to be reckoned with. But she's up against insurmountable odds when boring exposition-heavy dialogue, flat scenes and lack of chemistry between the few that make up the central cast all knock on the door - hard and relentlessly.

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Nothing in The Watched really works, from music to set design (except, again, some rather nice opening establishing shots that play with contrast and colour in an inventive way), from performances to pacing. The Watched is both too long and too short, it both overexposes and underexposes, and it sure as hell isn't scary - at any point.

I'm a firm believer that M. Night Shyamalan has made more than one good film, but Ishana is off to a pretty bad start here. It's hard to recommend it.

02 Gamereactor UK
2 / 10
overall score
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