Nick’s Cinema Verdict: The Watchers (Review)

Nick’s Cinema Verdict: The Watchers (Review)

“The Watchers”

PG-13/Horror/Fantasy/Mystery/102 Mins

Director/Writer: Ishana Night Shyamalan

Starring: Dakota Fanning (“Ripley”), Georgina Campbell (“Barbarian”), Olwen Fouéré (“The Northman”), Oliver Finnegan (“Outlander”), Alistair Brammer (“Les Misérables”) and John Lynch (“Black Death”)

Synopsis: A group of strangers are stranded in a concrete bunker in the middle of the woods. Following a set of rules in order to survive, they must find a way to escape their unseen captors who they only know as “The Watchers.”

Review: Before watching this film, I took the time to read the book (written by Irish author, A.M. Shine) it was based on. “The Watchers” is well paced, oozing with gothic mood, unique with its narrative structure, highly effective with its suspense and creepiness and filled with layered characters who you care for by the end. Erm…I apologize, I was talking about the book. The movie? It is a clunky, boring, laughable mess of an adaptation/film.

I understand that when a book is adapted to film, not everything can be included in a 90-120 minute runtime. I think it’s perfectly okay if a film takes liberties with the source material. If it fits the tone of the narrative and the actors portraying the characters feel like they stepped right out of the novel. Yet, even on the level of the film’s merit, it just missed the mark. It felt like the filmmaker got the book, saw the characters names, made note of some of the notable things that happen, and stripped it of all its mystery and intrigue turning it into a slog to watch. Mina, is the lead character of this film and the strangers she’s held captive with are Ciara, Daniel and Madeline. In the novel, each chapter centers on each character from their point of view told in the third person. Along this is the author spilling all their inner thoughts and the motives behind their actions. Since the film centers on Mina, the viewer is deprived of any characterizations of the rest of the group and the only backstory they give is through quick and awkward exposition. Since we don’t know what goes through the character’s heads and the film hops around important plot points/character arcs, you’re left wondering why a character made a certain decision that confounds the viewer.

Adapting a book should mean that it can stand on its own and be accessible to people who read the book and casual audiences. The crowd in my theater and myself both felt alienated. The biggest complaint was the script. Take away the source material, the dialogue written and spoken on screen felt unrealistic and clunky that garnered unintentional laughs from my audience. Another thing that is bewildering was the novel constantly had an interesting event taking place going from point A to point B with no excess inbetween. However, most of it was cut and replaced with different sequences that bogged the film down and made the pace slower than a snail. Even the gothic mood of the book wasn’t translated through the screen. I will give props to cinematographer, Eli Arenson and the score composed by Abel Korzeniowaki. The film does have some creepy looking shots of the Irish wilderness and the look of their bunker (called the Coop), does have an eerie feel and the haunting score adds to the scenery. Yet, there is no sense of fear or suspense with the film’s attempt at horror and cheap jump scares. Creepiest thing in the film could be the watchers themselves yet their design could look terrifying in one shot, absolutely silly the next.  If you take the horror away, you’re still supposed to be left with a mystery. The film shows its cards too early and you’re essentially spelt out what the mystery is while in the novel each page is a revelation growing closer to a shocking conclusion.

I went in with an open mind, prepared for differences in a story I knew through a different medium. Overall “The Watchers” felt like a very faint shadow of a story that could’ve been adapted with so much more care and should have been so much better.

Score: 3/10


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