Movie Review: ‘They’re Watching’

Review by Lauryn Angel

They’re Watching is the brainchild of first-time director Jay Lender (who has written for Spongebob Squarepants and Phineas and Ferb) and Micah Wright (who has written several video games, including Call of Duty: Black Ops II). With such a pedigree, it’s difficult to know what to expect from this film. Cheesy, cartoonish horror comedy? Gritty found-footage thriller? Unfortunately, the film doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be either.

The premise of the film is that crew from the reality TV show House Hunters Global, travelling to Moldova to film the transformation of a burnt-out, ramshackle house in the woods into (hopefully) a designer cottage. The crew consists of the producer, Kate (Carrie Genzel), cameraman Greg (David Alpay), sound guy Alex (Kris Lemche), and Sarah (Mia Faith), the production assistant. When they arrive in Moldova, the crew quickly establish themselves as entitled Americans who are more interested in finding a Starbucks with wifi than with learning anything about the culture they’re trampling on. It quickly becomes clear that they are not welcome in the village. The only friendly local is Vladimir (Dimitri Diatchenko), who does his best to smooth relations between the crew and the locals. The story picks up interest when we meet Becky (Brigid Brannagh), the Los Angeles potter who bought and renovated the home the crew has come to film.

The first half of the film is perhaps the most interesting – namely because there are few clues as to where the story is heading. The viewer is almost as clueless as Sarah – who has joined the crew in the middle of the project and knows none of the backstory, allowing the other characters to provide exposition for both Sarah and the viewer. After a night in the local pub (fittingly called The Burning Stake) and lesson about the local legend about witch-burning, the plot quickly becomes predictable for the viewer, but not for any of the other characters and plods along until the last thirty minutes.

It’s at this point that the film’s identity crisis becomes critical. What had been a brooding, if somewhat predictable, thriller takes a sharp turn into almost slap-stick horror-comedy, with cartoonish special effects. Had the movie started out on this footing, perhaps this could have worked as a climax. Unfortunately, it does not fit well with the first two-thirds of the film, rendering it a bloody, silly mess.

In Theaters and On Demand March 25.

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