The Watched

The Watched
The Watched
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Based on a book by A.M. Shine of Ireland, this film The Watched by writer-director Ishana Night Shyamalan has been perceived as a counterpoint to her father’s Knock At The Cabin. Once again, we are deep in the woods, both literally and metaphorically, with random strangers assembling for some momentous and vaguely ominous purpose. In Knock, things became less interesting as they unfolded. This does the opposite – so much so that the basic idea sold in the trailer is rather underdeveloped (there’s little done with the fact that abductees are always on display). However, when claustrophobia subsides, fresh and unsettling directions can be taken by the narrative. Indeed it feels like a pilot for a TV series introducing more mythology than it could possibly explore.

Even at moments of relative calm in Mina’s (Dakota Fanning) non-occult life things are off-kilter: she works half-heartedly in a pet shop in Galway; there are few faces in sharp focus; she only tells Winston the parrot what she really thinks; and she avoids calls from Lucy, her estranged sister. Having to transport Darwin to Belfast Zoo, she becomes lost somewhere amidst woodland limbo. Like many recent spook flicks set in or about Ireland (The Hallow, The Hole In The Ground, Unwelcome), newcomers to these parts have had to deal with malign subterranean woodland monsters which hate daylight and make knuckle-cracking _click-tick-lick_sounds when pleased (or hungry).

Mina finds herself trapped inside ‘The Coop’, something that looks like an animal containment area at any zoo made from concrete alone. It has a panoramic one-way glass window which means anything looking out can see into where four people who sleep there every night are kept within their cells. They will range up till trees decorated with sinister crafts’ ‘point of no return’ signs, and have to be home before dark — Madeline (Olwen Fouéré), the edgy elder says. Consequently, it is only natural for Mina to resent being told not to delve into holes in the ground or desperately attempt at breaking free while her fellow captives Danny (Oliver Finnegan) and Ciara (Georgina Campbell) are hardly inclined to enlighten her about just how much trouble they’ve gotten themselves into.

There have been many haunted woods movies as of late but The Watched makes an Ireland stretch magically wicked. The script lacks depth in character, trips over plot points but has a good few cast members who contribute –Fouéré remains one of the scariest people in cinema- and also does not resort to jump-scare button pressing too frequently.

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