The Watchers (2024) Movie Review – Squandered potential

Squandered Potential

There have been a number of horrors over the years that take place in secluded woods, and toy with the idea of adding in European folklore to heighten the tension. Netflix’s The Ritual is a great example of this, while The Wailing and Trollhunter are both memorable entries too. Undoubtedly, this is a saturated market that’s incredibly hard for newcomers to stand out.

When it comes to The Watchers, this 2024 horror already had a mountain to climb. The problem is, the film feels like a patchwork of ideas that never steps into its own shoes long enough to really run with its intriguing premise. These watered down elements lack the bite needed to really draw blood.

In its simplest form, The Watchers blends the hopelessness of the wood setting from The Ritual. The paranoia and eeriness from The Thing, and the claustrophobia and distrust (not to mention the bunker setting) with 10 Cloverfield Lane. However, The Watchers doesn’t balance that with anything concretely original, which is a shame because there’s definitely potential here.

The story centers on a young artist called Mina. She ends up stranded in the extensive forest of Rural Ireland and ends up trapped alongside three strangers, Ciara, Madelina and Daniel. It would appear that mysterious creatures are stalking them each night, “watching” the group from afar behind the mirrored glass inside. With strict rules to follow and a lot of cracks in the mythos, Mina starts to doubt the validity of everything she’s come to learn.

The film has a clear Shyamalan influence, which is hardly surprising given it’s directed by M. Night’s daughter, Ishana Night Shyamalan. Those who know the source material may potentially get more out of this, but the film is poorly paced and there’s a lot of sloppy exposition too.

The first half is creepy and suitably atmospheric, with a parrot that chirps up with “try not to die”, lots of sketchy characters and drip-fed details about the watchers. Unfortunately, around the midway point, The Watchers comes apart at the seams. Along with showing what’s actually out there (if anything), the film piles on exposition that slows everything down.

There are video tapes explaining the history, characters talking at length about past incidents or trauma and even the final 5 minutes add in a big monologue about a certain plot elements. It bogs everything down and it’s really not needed.

The other problem here stems from the characters themselves. Some, like Daniel, are poorly written and have absolutely no development. Others, like Mina, are cliched and their history plays out in predictable fashion without much aplomb. Flashbacks are obvious and there’s only really one reveal that will catch you off-guard. However, it doesn’t really feel particularly earned, which is a shame.

Visually, The Watchers is pretty good with a decent use of colour. There’s a pretty basic palette of using yellows for inside the bunker (signifying warmth and comfort) with blues outside (showcasing cold and darkness). It’s a very basic filmmaking technique but it is undoubtedly effective here, with some nice shots throughout.

The musical score is good too, using a mix of minor string notes and big chord sequences to really rachet up the tension. And for the most part, the movie does well to keep things suitably creepy. At least for the first half. It’s such a shame that The Watchers doesn’t capitalize on that momentum as there’s definitely potential here for a cult horror flick. Instead, this one fails to really change the mediocrity it revels in for much of its run-time.

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  • Verdict - 5.5/10

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