“Watcher” (REVIEW) Sundance 2022

Maika Monroe appears in Watcher by Chloe Okuno, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

“Watcher” from director Chloe Okuno brings to Sundance a sadistically charming psychological thriller starring Maika Monroe as a young woman who moves to Bucharest with her finance only to soon find herself consumed by the feeling she is being watched. And admittedly, that is where this film thrives. The feeling of someone lurking in the shadows and following you is something that can bring fear to anyone, and this movie provides plenty of unnerving moments fueled from just that.

What starts as something that could be written off as the imagination running wild, quickly turns to genuine uneasiness and fear as Monroe’s Julia has no doubt someone is stalking her. This does result in some spots that do feel a bit too recycled for the genre. We’ve all seen the film with a central character in imminent harm only to find those around them not believing their cries for help. This storyline does rely on this trope to carry the suspense. In addition to a significant other who after introduction only pops in here and there and is never around when needed.

So, there are bland foundations to the plot-progression. Yet placing Julia in a foreign location, out of her element, is still relatively effective in creating an ominous feeling of isolation. Something bolstered by Monroe’s performance that does infuse the character with a dimension of sincerity and emotional layering to easily have you rooting for her success. This capability in her character gives the movie a few intriguing facets to wrap around the portions of the story that are constructed on blatantly procedural genre clichés.

The pacing is a bit slow. The middle-act does run a tad long as well. However, Monroe and a creepy performance from Burn Gorman carry the string of events nicely. Spots of suspense are timely and when it begins to drag, the delightfully horrific finale kicks in to send the film off with a bang. The direction is moody and atmospheric. Okuno is successful in pulling the viewer into the mind of the main character to connect with the torment and stress she’s going through. The locations capture an unassumingly ominous vibe to complement the plot and while “Watcher” may not be a film that will blow you away, it’s certainly one that can captivate your imagination just enough to have you immersed in the turmoil thrown at this resilient young woman.

Grade: 75%

Anthony J. Digioia II © 2022 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.


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