The Watchers

The Watchers

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Shyamalan is almost a trademark for crazy, artistic thrillers. However, Ishana Night Shyamalan hopes to continue the legacy into the next generation and make a name for herself in similar genres. Her first feature film ever, “The Watchers,” is an epic tale that attempts through it argues between hyperbolic whimsy and tentative hideous terror without much refinement.

Mina (Dakota Fanning) is trapped inside her own skin. An American twenty-something living in Galway, she spends most of her days at a pet shop and pretends to be someone else at night while going to bars. Mina has been driving through a dense but directionless forest when her car breaks down right in the middle of nowhere. As dusk descends upon a cacophony of birds fleeing from its depths leaving her seemingly alone with one other thing – darkness growling behind it? Mina’s car was gone; she started to run and found herself running into a small bunker where an old woman called Madeleine stood at the door.

Ciara (Georgina Campbell) and Daniel (Oliver Finnegan) are also kept in “The Coop”. The Coop is simply three walls and one big unidirectional window that acts as both their mirror as well as the watchers’ mirror image outside. Every evening they have had to greet them at the window, lining up like display mannequins in shop windows, allowing themselves to be watched. It can take days to find a way out before darkness falls due to its maze-like structure or because of its seemingly infinite number of trees Madeline’s messages were clear: stay inside The Coop before nightfall or die there; make sure you are there on time for The Watcher’s arrival and survive; nothing can hurt you during daylight hours but after dark collection will not only mean death but also brutal slaughter if those who do not obey are to be believed.

“The Watchers” is an ambitious film for Shyamalan. The source material of the film gives Shyamalan much to work with in terms of architectural designs, including a world to build, set pieces, and character development; however, her limited toolkit becomes evident. “The Watchers” seems unimaginative and lacks guts, but only has weak dialogue to rely on. It is weak in establishing its identity and level of maturity through conversations that sound like they don’t believe in themselves either. Madeline’s character cyclically warns about the noisy brutality of the watchmen though such claims are not well supported by the movie hence it misses its mark here. In fact it is toothless.

Shyamalan’s stylistic choices resemble hopscotch cartoony horror suitable for kids just like those found in films like “The Haunted Mansion.” Other than those style choices there comes a few sequences aimed at blood shedding like James Wan series “Insidious”. That said, while Shyamalan leans more toward mystic rather than macabre, her execution appears as if she made a random pick while blindfolded and this makes “The Watchers” flimsy.

However, when put together at night or in dark spaces the actual design of these forest beings can be quite compelling. But once again Shyamalan falls into this trap by showing us too much light and taming their monstrosity with an overused design. This is until we get closer to the end of The Watchers where we see them approaching some sort of uncanny valley territory which could be better but works at least.

“The Watchers” is about redundancy and voyeurism issues . Mina’s twin sister who is mentioned in passing once; her mimicking pet shop parrot which she carries along all along the movie; watchers’ lore – these are just several ideas M.Night tries to mix up within one movie. The coop acts as a kind of theater, and the only DVD the group owns for entertainment is a single season of “The Lair of Love,” a very obvious satire on “Love Island.” This parallel between an isolated group kept together to entertain others seems clear, but there is no thesis. It’s possible that Shyamalan is making a meta-comment on performance itself through the coop; it could be viewed as an argument for how we imitate realities from reality TV, or even how celebrity culture influences us, but her pen was too thin to make this more than a hypothesis.

In “The Watchers,” the performances suffer from a poorly written script and high level of confusing lines. Furthermore, even as we ponder on who the watchers are, the same characters seem to have lost track of their own ideas. This heavily expository dialogue prevents any subtlety in character’s words which are often identical to their thoughts. Fanning does well at portraying Mina’s emptiness through her stoic demeanor and seriousness, however she disappoints us in those moments that require heightening and despair. Campbell is finally getting noticed for her work in horror films (“Barbarian,” “Black Mirror,” “Bird Box”) with every role she plays being more interesting than the other ones, this obviously reflected by her having very few lines to speak in this one.

There is no time for breathing as ‘The Watchers’ crams lore dumps, a smothering script full of dialogues and bloated storytelling all into it. The movie fails because Shyamalan cannot choose between making a fairytale or horror film; therefore, he loses sight of its potential direction. But they are weak attempts at depth if not nonexistent ones, which causes it to fail to be established as anything substantial.When you see The Viewership – there isn’t much going on here since it has an ambitious director who tries too hard but still haven’t mastered basic levels of art.

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