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'The Watchers' movie review with Casey T. Allen

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Movie poster for the horror film "The Watchers"
Theatrical release poster

I recently saw the highly stylized horror film The Watchers, and I'm confident in saying it's one of the worst films I've seen this year. Dakota Fanning (Ripley, 2024) plays a solitary lonely woman who gets stranded in a misty forest in Ireland with three strangers. These four people are trapped in a rectangular shelter in the forest where mysterious and monstrous creatures observe them and stalk them at night. As this imprisonment wears down the psychology of the four people, some of them make plans to escape.

The Watchers is adapted from the first novel by A.M. Shine, an Irish writer of Gothic horror who published The Watchers in 2021. There's a lot for viewers to unpack in this film, from the rules of living in the shelter at night, to scavenging for food during the day, to the childhood trauma of the main character (played by Dakota Fanning). So much of this world building is written and acted in unnatural didactic dialogue, and this made it difficult to remain emotionally connected to any characters on screen.

The Watchers is directed and written by Ishana Shyamalan, and it's her feature film debut. Ishana is the daughter of famous director M. Night Shyamalan (Knock at the Cabin, 2023), and the directorial apple doesn't fall far from the tree. The longer this film proceeded, the more it felt like the director tried to put in as many plot twists and surprises as humanly possible. This constant maze of unexpected turns made my viewing experience annoying and bewildering.

The emotional tone is all over the place in the latter half of this film which makes me think, "What is this film even about? What message is this director trying to communicate? Does she even know? Because I don't."

After watching this one, I became concerned about the overall quality of new releases in theaters today. We're approaching the edge of a content cliff resulting from the Hollywood writers and actors strike from last year. Without good films to talk about, how will movie theaters remain active and relevant as we tip over the edge?

Casey T. Allen is a native of Utah who graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelor's degree in English in 2007. He has worked in many capacities throughout USU campus and enjoys his time at UPR to continually exercise his writing.