The Watchers – Is the famous Indian director’s daughter’s horror film “watchworthy”?

MOVIE REVIEW – Given that M. Night Shyamalan is renowned for his twist endings, it’s understandable that his daughter’s directorial debut would come with similar expectations. So, did the apple fall far from the tree? Well, Ishana Night Shyamalan’s visually stunning feature debut starts off slow but gradually becomes more engaging and intriguing.

 

“The Watchers” marks Ishana Night Shyamalan’s first feature film, following her work on several episodes of the Apple TV+ series “Servant”. Like her father, she seems to have inherited the penchant (which some love and others loathe) for crafting mysterious, slowly unfolding narratives that culminate in a big twist, adapted here from A.M. Shine’s novel of the same name.

While I can’t speak to how faithfully Ishana adapted A.M. Shine’s novel, those unfamiliar with the book will be eager to find out who (or what) the titular Watchers are. Shyamalan skillfully creates a haunting atmosphere as we follow Mina (Dakota Fanning), who becomes stranded in an extensive, untouched forest in western Ireland when her car breaks down.

 

 

The forest where you will surely get lost and lose your life

 

The film begins hauntingly with a panicked man trying to escape the forest while being terrorized by an unseen evil force. Shyamalan captures the ominous dread in the opening scene and maintains this momentum throughout the film’s first half. The story introduces our protagonist, Mina, a 28-year-old American artist living in Ireland who works at a pet shop. When tasked with delivering a caged bright yellow parrot to a customer, she loses her way in the forest. Her car breaks down, forcing her to walk with the bird, later nicknamed “Darwin”.

As she tries to navigate, Mina realizes that the forest itself is deliberately turning her around, leading her back to her starting point no matter which direction she takes. Something strange happens. First, she meets an elderly stranger named Madeline (Olwen Fouéré), then two more individuals: Ciara (Georgina Campbell, returning to horror after her breakout role in 2022’s “Barbarian”) and Daniel (Oliver Finnegan), in a glass-walled shelter deep in the forest. As night falls, Madeline, Ciara, and Daniel explain to Mina that there are rules she must follow to survive while they await her introduction to the “Watchers”.

 

 

Thoughtful Direction

 

Initially, the identity and motivations of these so-called Watchers remain a mystery. This ambiguity is one of the film’s strengths, building tension and suspense akin to Shyamalan Sr.’s films. Ishana Night Shyamalan understands the power of restraint, and Mina’s navigation of the forest and her forced cohabitation with her new companions in the glass enclosure showcase the young director’s visual talent.

The title suggests that the invisible nocturnal creatures are observing every move in the shelter, effectively heightening the mystery. The first impression is intriguing, hinting at something sinister lurking in the darkness. The film’s atmospheric visual style, captured by Shyamalan and cinematographer Eli Arenson, highlights the pristine beauty and eerie, mythical ambiance of Ireland’s Wicklow forest. The claustrophobic tension and careful camera placement further enhance the film’s atmosphere.

 

 

Oversights

 

Unfortunately, the tension and ominous aura quickly dissipate once the Watchers finally appear. Although Shyamalan took an unexpected direction, the lead characters lack the ultimate guilt needed to capitalize on the brutality and voyeurism suggested in the film’s first half. The repetitive nature of the plot and the persistent adherence to silliness result in a less threatening tone by the end of the film.Dakota Fanning does her best to portray a character haunted by past trauma. However, the screenplay fails to develop her character sufficiently, limiting Fanning’s ability to showcase her talent. Meanwhile, supporting actors Olwen Fouéré, Georgina Campbell, and Oliver Finnegan provide adequate support for their somewhat one-dimensional roles.

The apple really didn’t fall far from the tree; we look forward to more films from Shyamalan’s daughter!

Despite its shortcomings, “The Watchers” does not fully meet expectations, but Shyamalan’s talent behind the camera and the visual execution are impressive. The tension she builds is occasionally masterful, and I’m personally excited to see what Shyamalan can conjure up in the future as a filmmaker working on her own ideas.

-Gergely Herpai “BadSector”-

 

 

The Watchers

Direction - 6.3
Actors - 5.9
Story - 5.4
Visuals/Music/Sounds - 6.8
Ambience - 6.6

6.2

GOOD

"The Watchers" is a visually stunning and tension-filled horror film showcasing Ishana Night Shyamalan's directorial talent. While the story is sometimes underdeveloped and the character work lacking, the film's mood and visuals compensate for its shortcomings. It's worth keeping an eye on Shyamalan's future projects.

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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines - including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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