Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Watcher is a decent debut from Chloe Okuno

For her feature film debut, film director Chloe Okuno teams with scream queen Maika Monroe for the suspense film Watcher from IFC Films. Julia (Maika Monroe) joins her husband (Karl Glusman) when he relocates to his family’s native Romania for a new job. Having recently abandoned her acting career, she finds herself frequently alone and unoccupied. 

One night, people watching from her picture window, she spots a vague figure in an adjacent building that looks back at her. Soon after, while alone at a local movie theater, Julia’s sense of being watched intensifies, and she becomes confident that someone is following her. The question is it the same unknown neighbor? Meanwhile, a serial killer known as The Spider stalks the city.

While I was not fortunate enough to see any of her previous shorts, director Chloe Okuno did impress with her segment “Storm Drain” from the horror anthology film V/H/S/ 94. Thus, I was anxious to see what she would do with a more extended narrative. For the most part, the film belongs to Monroe, I am sure there will be someone who sees the film, and it paints as an unofficial sequel to It Follows, Monroe’s breakthrough film. The beginning of that film was highly similar to the beginning of this one. If an alien is pursuing her, now an unknown individual is following her.

Watcher is a slow burn, so do not expect much gore or excitement. Two things stick out the most to me about the film. First, because, as with the protagonist, it is left out of essential interactions; secondly, because, whereas the film does not rely just on jump-scare as a helpful crutch, the bursts of decibels mimic the background music. Watcher uses the senses to attack us: both the blatancy of the rumble and the uncertainty of the undetectable. 

On the one hand, a slightly more innovative scenario could have rendered Watcher a genre gem that addressed topics including stalking and harassment subtly. Chloe Okuno could have easily made it into another slasher film. However, in the end, it is evident because the tension is just right, and the film is far off the Hitchcock model.

Final Grade: C+

Watcher is in theaters now

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