Film Review: The Watchers


The Watchers
Director: Ishana Night Shyamalan
New Line Cinema and Blinding Edge Pictures
In Theaters: 6.07

Unlike most initial reactions, I have a newfound level of respect for Ishana Night Shyamalan. Her debut feature film, The Watchers, is very absorbing and enigmatic, and although it bears some resemblance to her father, M. Night Shyamalan’s well-known directorial style, she does not seem to shy away from the fact that she is his daughter.  In fact, she seems to lean into this, which is where the newfound respect emerges from. Rather than try to poorly fool the public away from  the nepotism she possesses from him, she comes outright with it, letting the audience definitively observe for themselves some of his impact through their relationship as father daughter as well as producer of the film. As a letter to future nepotism babies who, as writer Nate Jones stated as having “their mothers eyes and agent,” it’s okay. We know whether you hide it or not and we don’t blame you for taking advantage of the opportunities presented to you, because if we’re being honest, almost all of us would do the same. 

Set in modern day Ireland, a young American girl named Mina (Dakota Fanning, Coraline, Push) passes the time by morphing herself into different imaginative women in Irish dive bars, something I’ve never personally witnessed but now have to do, simply for the research. After her pet shop employer tasks her with the delivery of a bird to a new client, she unknowingly enters a mysteriously inescapable forest, influencing her car to break down, leading her deeper into the woodland in search of help. Said help is found seconds before sunset from an older woman named Madeline (Olwen Fouéré, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Survivalist), who appears as if she could be an ex-free people model. Before Madeline ushers Mina into a concrete structure referred to as “the coop,” a literal murder of crows zips inches above her head and out of the forest, leaving her as visually the only living thing for miles, that is until she perceives inhuman screeches not far off from their current location. Inside the not-so-spacious coop she meets two others, Ciara (Georgina Campbell, Barbian) and Daniel (Oliver Finnegan, Man in an Orange Shirt), who, along with Madeline, have been held within the confines of the woodland and the concrete box for months. The coop is quite barren, only containing the genuine essentials such as a full season of The Lair of Love,this universes version of the award winning television series Love Island, which would surely keep me sane for a year (minimum), along with a dining set, a couch and a one-way window letting the unseen beings— “the watchers”—do just what you might have guessed… watch. The “watching” is one of a few rules agreed to by the coterie and put into effect by their figurehead Madeline, the longest-reigning Galway forest survivor. 

Despite Mina’s odd nack for dressing as randoms, the rules—which all at some point are not just broken but shattered—and the loud symbolism of birds and doubles, I find these things to add to the mystery of the film, not seeming as parts of unbaked ideas but rather unexplainable lore. If there’s anything irksome to me about horror or thriller films, it’s the film’s desire to spoon-feed a dull audience the answers and reasoning behind every choice within their film. I fear Ishana Night Shyamalan has made a solid debut feature film for a nepotistic director and I genuinely look forward to not only how she furthers her fathers already impactful legacy, but how she cultivates one personalized and impactful for herself.  –Alex Dawson

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