Saturday 5 November 2022

"Watcher" (Guardian 02/11/22)


Dir: Chloe Okuno. With: Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman, Burn Gorman, Madalina Anea. 91 mins. Cert: 15

Not to be confused with the recent Netflix hit, but a very solidly engineered Hitchcockian throwback, such as the Odeon used to lay on. Company man Karl Glusman and resting actress Maika Monroe are the upwardly mobile young Americans relocating to a Bucharest bolthole boasting a prominent picture window; with hubby out schmoozing clients, his better half has time enough to dwell on a gruesome local murder spree, and the silhouetted figure peering down from an adjacent property. Suspicion shifts and moves still closer to home, but on one point Chloe Okuno’s film remains resolute: these characters would have avoided a lot of grief had they invested in net curtains.

As late as Wes Craven’s Red Eye in 2005, we could take this species of medium-budget runaround for granted. Yet Watcher prompts not just relief that it exists, but actual, genuine, old-fashioned thrills. Striding confidently into studio terrain after contributing to last year’s V/H/S 94, Okuno works up a muted style and aces her setpieces, retooling passing extras as peripheral threats; her sound design goes right through you. She clearly punches up an underlying psychology in Zack Ford’s script, having the actress’s mounting fears compounded by frustration at a Rational Spouse seeking to explain them away as girly misunderstanding. (Glusman’s heroically regrettable moustache offers its own grounds for divorce.)

Practically the only novelty is that Okuno spots this gaslighting for what it is, though that permits us the rare privilege of a mainstream thriller heroine observed erring on the side of caution throughout. As in 2014’s It Follows, Monroe is no pushover, and her reward for persistence, amid the nicely unpredictable finale, is a “told you so” moment for the ages. Unimprovably brisk at 91 minutes, it’s not messing around – and probably won’t hang around long at a moment when the schedules are being primed with comic cuts and starrier awards fare. But a few more of these nifty diversions, and the multiplexes might once again be a viable night out. 

Watcher is now playing in cinemas nationwide.

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