The Watchers (2024) Movie Review - Watchable Hollywood Horror from Ishana Shyamalan

Horror, Thriller | 102 Min
Cover from Ishana Night Shyamalan's horror movie The Watchers (The Watched)(2024)
  • Director: Ishana Night Shyamalan
  • Actors: Dakota Fanning, Georgina Campbell, Olwen Fouéré, Oliver Finnegan
  • Writers: Ishana Night Shyamalan, A. M. Shine
  • Producers: M. Night Shyamalan, Ashwin Rajan, Nimitt Mankad
  • Country: Ireland, United States
  • Language: English
  • Parental: Some Violence, Some Mild Language
  • Horror, Thriller | 102 Min

A young artist gets stranded in an extensive immaculate forest in western Ireland where after finding shelter she becomes trapped alongside three strangers stalked by mysterious creatures each night.

Welcome to Knockout Horror. In a bit of a break from tradition, I am going to be reviewing a recent horror movie currently doing the rounds in the cinema. Namely Ishana Night Shyamalan’s The Watchers (known as The Watched in the UK and other places). Based on a novel by A. M. Shine, The Watchers is set in Western Ireland and follows the story of a young woman, Mina (Dakota Fanning – Coraline), who breaks down in the middle of nowhere.

Attempting to find her way, she encounters a woman called Madeline (Olwen Fouéré) who ushers her into the safety of a large bunker like building known as “the coop”. A place where a group of survivors have been staying for safety. Confused, Madeline tells Mina of the strange creatures that stalk the forests at night known as The Watchers.

Nobody has ever made it out from the forest alive. And now the group of survivors must stand in front of a mirror to be observed every time the sun goes down. Only emerging in the day to forage for supplies. Unless, of course, there is another way out.

The True Horror Of It All

If we can just address some of the conversations surrounding The Watchers for a second. All this talk of nepotism, due to M. Night Shyamalan’s shameless involvement and promotion of his daughter’s directorial debut, is ignoring one important fact. We are now set to be subject to a whole new generation of trademark Shyamalan bull shittery.

Screenshot from Ishana Night Shyamalan's horror movie The Watchers (The Watched)(2024)

For those of us who were completely tired of his needless plot twists and disappointing endings. We had the faint hope that he would one day retire and maybe the sting from movies like The Lady in the Water and The Happening would gradually fade. Hell, maybe one day we would even come to appreciate some of his more creative efforts like Signs and The Village as classics.

But no, he had to go and plant his seed and then encourage said seed to go into movie making. Now we have a 22 year old M. Night Shyamalan mini me running around knocking out movies emulating her dad’s very specific style of filmmaking. Great! But the real question here is whether or not The Watchers bears any resemblance to a movie made by her pops?

Kind of?

Considering M. Night Shyamalan, at 22, was heading back to India to write, direct, and star in his feature film debut Praying with Anger. It’s hard not to notice the similarities between the aforementioned director’s patented style and that of his 22 year old daughter Ishana.

Most 22 year old directors never have access to this type of Hollywood production. And few have any form of developed style. Most are doing what her dad was doing when he was 22. Writing, directing and starring in a cheap movie that nobody will remember in 30 years unless you make it big. 

Screenshot from Ishana Night Shyamalan's horror movie The Watchers (The Watched)(2024)

There are wrinkles of her dad’s style throughout The Watchers and his hand has clearly touched this production. Whether it is fair or not, that is what will dominate conversations about this movie. Nepotism is a sore subject at the moment and cases don’t come more blatant than this. But that isn’t the sum total of Ishana’s efforts.

An Attempt to Separate

Ishana clearly attempts to create some distance between herself and her father. She is, likely, acutely aware of the impending comparisons and tries to muddy that conversation slightly. I can see some Hitchcock influence here and there in some of her shot set ups. The whole presentation feels more modern. And it is hard not to enjoy some of the more obtuse angles dotted around and the reflections used to create interesting visuals. It is clear that Ishana is trying to do her own thing and her creativity shines in parts.

While the inevitable ending twist is present and accounted for. And the Hollywood presentation afforded to a very young director with no experience will add fuel to the flames of conversation regarding said nepotism. There are plenty of moments here that simply hint at a young, promising, film maker trying to find their way.

Screenshot from Ishana Night Shyamalan's horror movie The Watchers (The Watched)(2024)

The pacing is off at times. Ishana’s script is often quite weak. There are long periods where little to nothing happens. The ending of the movie is all too rushed and character development is sadly lacking. Plot holes abound and it feels as though there are a few too many loose ends left untied. The final 15 minutes or so culminate in a wild attempt to draw the plot together and fill the viewer in.

Still Fairly Enjoyable

With all of that being said, I really didn’t hate The Watchers. In fact, I found it quite enjoyable. Being perfectly honest, I think The Watchers is a pretty good example of PG horror. There are enough scares to keep you invested. The setup is fairly interesting. I found the plot intriguing. The Watchers themselves are a scary concept and there is enough information drip fed in to keep you on your toes. Hell, the movie is absolutely dripping in tension on a number of occasions. 

Sure, the attempts at weaving Celtic folklore into the plot felt haphazard and poorly executed. And the movie never really peaks but it is completely watchable. Dakota Fanning is in good form as Mina and doesn’t scream once which is a bonus. Olwen Fouéré is an absolute joy and I enjoyed John Lynch’s small role.

Screenshot from Ishana Night Shyamalan's horror movie The Watchers (The Watched)(2024)

Everyone on board takes the movie as seriously as a phone call from the hospital telling you to bring a relative or friend with you to your next appointment. And Ishana doesn’t go overboard on the special effects. Though what effects there are absolutely suck. It’s really not as bad as many would have you believe. In the case of The Watchers, the talk of nepotism is louder than the talk about the actual movie.

Should You Watch The Watchers?

I think The Watchers is definitely worth checking out. At worst you will find it a bit mediocre. If we ignore all the talk about Ishana getting a leg up in the industry from her famous dad. This is a serviceable and, at times, very watchable horror movie. Acting is great, there is enough going on with the mystery at the centre of the story to keep you interested. And the Watchers themselves are a great concept. 

Sure, there are issues. Pacing is off, there are periods with little going on, some of the shots don’t work and the movie can be very silly at times. But as something to fill an hour or so, you could do a lot worse. The Watchers also deserves mention as a horror movie for young teens thanks to minimal on screen violence and the slow sense of dread.

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