The Watchers Review

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Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis:

M Night’s daughter takes the reins for her first feature film. She follows her father’s footsteps, keeping the twist endings and tense thrillers in the family. Here, we see a young artist who is tasked with delivering a rare bird to a location in western Ireland. During the journey, her car breaks down in the middle of an isolated forest. She encounters three strangers who warn her of the mysterious watchers who lurk in the darkness. She must remain in an enclosed fortress during nightfall with these strangers to stay alive. Can this group figure out how to escape? Or are they part of a larger plan?

Positives:

There is a lot to admire with Ishana Night Shyamalan’s directorial debut. She has clearly been studying her father’s style over the years and has picked up a thing or two from him. I commend her for taking the time to make the film look so nice. The cinematography and shooting locations are top notch. Some wonderful shots of Ireland’s landscape and some creepy sequences in the woods really help the film stand out. Sound design is also an impressive aspect. The film features many sequences that are meant to build tension in silence, so any ounce of sound would be cause for a white knuckle moment. 

The story also has some interesting ideas at play. Specifically with Dakota Fanning’s character as she seems to struggle with her self image. The film explores this idea in different ways as the story goes on, specifically when she dresses up as someone else entirely and through the glass that protects her from the watchers. It also explores some Irish folklore which was neat. The mystery surrounding the watchers fascinated me as the story unfolded. Shyamalan did a great job building intrigue and mystique around these ancient beings. The explanations surrounding them were interesting to say the least. Some aspects worked better than others but I’ll admire the ambition!

Negatives:

While Ishana took some of her father’s strengths, she unfortunately took some of his divisive qualities as well. The film builds a mystery throughout the film that may leave viewers perplexed by the end. There is a signature twist built into the story, much like many of M Night’s movies. I feel like this twist won’t surprise many viewers and could determine the enjoyment of the film. I hope Ishana experiments with her own style at some point because if she follows too closely in her father’s footsteps, she may continue to make the same mistakes.

The film also tries to juggle too many ideas at once. Many of them are left unanswered or unexplored, leaving me to wonder why they were introduced in the first place. I don’t think it was a creative decision to leave them ambiguous, but rather presenting too many to answer in a single film. If the filmmakers decided to consolidate their ideas then the story would have come together more efficiently. I also thought the acting was lackluster. I’ve seen most of these actors give better performances in other movies, especially Dakota Fanning. I partly blame the writing because the actors had to work with a script that didn’t do them any favors. There were so many missed opportunities with “The Watchers” that make me believe the film would have turned out better if Ishana had some more experience under her belt. 

Conclusion:

Ishana Night Shyamalan displays some creative merit in her filmmaking debut. Her eye for style is top notch and the story had potential. I would hope to see some development in the writing of the characters and the simplification of the themes. I also hope she tries something different and doesn’t follow too closely in her father’s footsteps. I’d love to see her take some more creative swings while still exploring more stories like this. “The Watchers” isn’t breaking barriers nor is it terribly offensive. It’s one of those movies that might be worth checking out on streaming if extra time is available. By no means is it a must see. I’m curious to see where Ishana goes from here.