The crew of the popular home-improvement TV show "Home Hunters Global" heads to a remote village in the Eastern European country of Moldova to film a follow-up segment about an American homeowner who's been transforming a rundown house into an artist's haven. But when the crew arrives, they discover the superstitious locals no longer welcome them or the homeowner - and when cultural misunderstanding turns to violence, no one is safe.
March 25, 2016
Jay Lender, Micah Wright
Jay Lender, Micah Wright
David Alpay as Greg
Kris Lemche as Alex
Mia Faith as Sarah
After learning that They’re Watching is yet another found footage film, my insides went to war. My heart hurt, a direct result of muscle fibers, veins and arteries all fighting to squeeze the muscle beyond the point of explosion. But the old ticker hung in there, and then I sat down, gathered myself and said, what the hell, one out of every 10 or found footage features turn out to be decent flicks. Could They’re Watching join the elite ranks of The Blair Witch Project, Exists, Trollhunter, Creep and JeruZalem, or would I be subjected to another nauseating film like The Devil Inside, Area 407, Mr. Jones, As Above, So Below, Grave Encounters, The Gallows or Hollow?
Only a viewing could answer that question. With popcorn in one hand, and a cold beverage in the other, I prepared myself for absolutely nothing, as I find it’s best to approach a found footage experience with absolutely no expectations whatsoever. It stings a bit less if you’re let down, and it leaves you glowing if you’re pleasantly surprised.
Jumping into the film we immediately see a few familiar faces, which instilled a bit of hope in my core. Kris Lemche – who proved he’s believable in the found footage format with his work in The Frankenstein Theory – was present and accounted for while Dimitri Diatchenko also joins the fold – and this gent impressed in Chernobyl Diaries, which isn’t technically a found footage film, although the guerrilla approach can create a similar impression. Both of these performers are very, very solid. Points scored for They’re Watching. In addition to Lemche and Diatchenko we get solid supporting performances from Brigid Brannagh, who has done a little small screen genre work, appearing in Supernatural, Grimm, Charmed and Angel. David Alpay, Mia Faith and Carrie Genzel (who you may have seen in Watchmen, Jennifer’s Body or Dead Rising: Watchtower) complete the primary ensemble. It comes with great pleasure to inform you that no one drops the ball.
However, there are some very real problems with the picture. And, just to get it out of the way I’ll run through a truncated breakdown of the movie. The picture follows a small documentary crew who travel to an Eastern European village to shoot a home improvement episode. But there are rules in these parts, and none of our naïve filmmakers seem to understand that adjusting ones behavior in a foreign country might just be beneficial to their health. Rules are indeed broken, and locals aren’t happy about it. There’s another presence here, however, that really, really isn’t happy, and as the picture rolls toward its final act we learn of a threat that even we – the educated viewer – don’t necessarily see coming.
That’s about all you’ll get from HFN, in regards to plot details. The film cuts no corners which leaves relaying the synopsis or idea of the film a bit challenging. At least, for those of us who would prefer to not spoil the film for you potential viewers.
The first two acts of They’re Watching are interesting. We’re gifted enough time to get to know the small crew, and we do get the chance to see them fumble all over themselves in a territory unknown, potentially lining up pieces of a puzzle destined to be blown away. There’s tension between the crew as a whole, but it doesn’t feel as though we’re looking at a bomb ticking away so much as a mismatched group. Regardless of the dynamics between our protagonists, the third act changes the trajectory of the film in a major, major way.
Discussing the final act without killing any of the mystery before you’ve seen it feels daunting, but I can tell you this: They’re Watching delivers one of the most explosive, insane and out of this world conclusions you’ll see this year. The lunacy of it all is jaw-dropping and totally and utterly unexpected. This is a climax that is truly nuts, in a wonderful way, and the carnage that quickly overtakes the entire screen should put a nice, wide smile on your face. Writers/directors Jay Lender and Micah Wright knew to build to something memorable, but they’re going to catch a great deal of viewers off-guard, as they’ve dumped all of their eggs in one basket, and that basket is revealed in the last 25 minutes or so of the film. From there it’s pedal to medal with no looking back.
They’re Watching doesn’t rank as an elite found footage film, but it’s also daring enough to avoid being bunched into the disgraceful group that houses films like The Devil Inside or Mr. Jones. They’re Watching slides into that in between territory. It’s not masterful, and it’s not a clear failure. This one fits comfortably in the middle of the pack. Some are going to go wild after seeing the film’s final showcase, and others will see something a bit too extreme or outlandish to fit into the portrait that Lender and Wright paint. Personally, I got a kick out of the picture and applaud two green filmmakers for attempting to throw everything and the kitchen sink in our direction for the big payoff. Some of it works and some of it doesn’t. Either way, They’re Watching is worth a look, just to see something a little atypical from handy-cam flicks.