Not to be confused with the recent Netflix series with a very similar name, Watcher is a psychological thriller in which a young woman begins to suspect that she is being targeted by a killer. Directed by Chloe Okuno, who co-wrote the screenplay with Zack Ford, this is a powerful slow-burn of a story, where the central character’s sense of mounting paranoia makes a viewer continually reassess what’s happening onscreen. Is it all just a series of coincidences? Or is the woman in serious danger?
Julia (Maika Monroe) accompanies her husband, Francis (Karl Glusman), to his home city of Bucharest, where he is starting a new job in marketing. His busy schedule means that he is often away from their rented apartment late at night, and Julia is pretty much left to her own devices. She’s trying to learn to speak Romanian, with the aid of an online language course, but she’s a novice and can barely understand what people are saying – her landlady, a barista, even her husband’s colleagues when she invites them to a dinner party. Meanwhile, a series of grisly murders is happening in the city, attributed to a killer whom the newspapers have dubbed ‘The Spider.’
And then Julia notices that, from an upstairs apartment across the street, somebody is watching her…
As is so often the case with a film like this, it would be wrong to give away too much of the plot. Julia’s sense of alienation is heightened by the fact that the filmmaker’s don’t offer subtitles for what the many Romanian characters are saying, and her only real friendship is with Irina (Madelina Anea), the young woman in the next apartment, who thankfully speaks English. Julia gets little help from Francis, who clearly thinks his wife is simply paranoid and has a tendency to gaslight her every time she mentions her concerns. As matters build steadily to a shattering conclusion, I find myself entirely swept up in Julia’s predicament. The final scenes actually have me holding my breath…
This is a fabulous, low-budget chiller that deserves an audience, so I’m horrified to note that, at the morning screening we attend, we are the only two people in the auditorium. Can the cinemas survive if people continually opt to stay at home and watch films on their small screens?
Meanwhile, Watcher is powerful reason to get off your sofa and visit your nearest multiplex.