Well-acted stalker thriller doesn’t do much with its “Rear Window” formula.
In the Indie film circuit, released by IFC Midnight, “Watcher” wants to be a stalker picture with a certain “Rear Window” ambiance. That means the girl looks out her window, and sees a man who may be looking back at her from across the other apartment. He may even be following her, which convinces her he’s the bad guy.
Two weeks ago, audiences and critics were divided on Alex Garland’s “Men,” which was about Jessie Buckley being stalked by the same man, who came in many forms. It’s easily understandable why Cinemascore would give it a D+, but I still found that film to be strange and original on various occasions, especially when Buckley and Roy Kinnear as a variety of characters both give excellent performances.
“Watcher” also has some fine performances from Maika Monroe (“It Follows,” “Independence Day: Resurgence”) as the main heroine and Burn Gorman (“Pacific Rim,” “The Dark Knight Rises”) as the stalker, but it’s not much of an Indie thriller I’d see again and again. In fact, it’s half interesting and half dull. I wanted more out of it, instead of just relying on the rules of a stalker thriller to keep the train chugging along.
Before we get to that formula, we meet a former actress named Julia (Monroe), who moves with her marketing husband Francis (Karl Glusman) in Bucharest, Romania, because he got a promotion. Since his mother is Romanian, he’s more fluent in the language than his wife is.
And then Gorman comes in as the main stalker. That is if he is a stalker, which would be hard for us to believe that he isn’t, considering that he would sit right behind her in a movie theater and how he goes to the police saying she might be spying on him.
Technically she is.
Julia tries to get help from her neighbors, the police, and the residents from the other apartment, but they can’t help her the way she wants them to. Even her husband thinks she’s imagining things.
The worse movie to present the “Rear Window” cliches is “The Woman in the Window,” which was on my list of 2021’s worst films. “Watcher” is miles ahead of that bomb, but, as I’ve mentioned, it still didn’t grab me in the way it intended. You can guess when the husband will tell her to give her story a rest or when the villain reveals himself. And when you do get to that point, the girl has to make some stupid choices. For a former actress, she sure doesn’t watch a lot of movies where someone has a knife at your throat.
Monroe does a good job at playing the distressed girl with more vulnerabilities than Amy Adams in “The Woman in the Window,” while Gorman has the hairstyle, facial expressions, and mannerisms of a stalker trying to look like an innocent person. Director Chloe Okuno (“V/H/S/94”) guides these two actors with some tension and perseverance, and there are locations and spots in Romania that I loved looking at. I watched “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days” about a month ago, and seeing those spots reminded me of my experience watching that masterpiece. But that film was an intense and profound character study compared to this film. Not even the writing from Okuno or Zach Ford could shake things up.
“Watcher” has the potential to be a provocative thriller, but it misses that opportunity by relying on the most obvious approaches. If anyone asks about my reaction of this movie, and the reviews have been good, I’ll say: “It’s miles better than “The Woman in the Window,” but it still could have been better, so it’s a mixed bag for me.”