At The Movies

The Watchers

Directors:  Ishana Shyamalan
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Georgina Campbell, Olwen Fouere, and more.

This forest isn’t charted on any map. Every car breaks down at its treeline. Mina’s is no different. Left stranded, she is forced into the dark woodland only to find a woman shouting, urging Mina to run to a concrete bunker. As the door slams behind her, the building is besieged by screams. Mina finds herself in a room with a wall of glass, and an electric light that activates at nightfall, when the Watchers come above ground. These creatures emerge to observe their captive humans and terrible things happen to anyone who doesn’t reach the bunker in time.

“The Watchers,” the debut feature from Ishana Night Shyamalan, is a folkloric fantasy that departs from the horror genre, despite what its initial trailers might suggest. That’s an important distinction because audiences expecting a horror film may find themselves perplexed by the movie’s direction. While there are eerie moments and jump scares, the suspense fizzles out early, leaving viewers with a puzzling narrative.

The story follows Mina (Dakota Fanning), a pet store worker from Galway, who gets lost in a forest haunted by supernatural beings. She stumbles upon a glass-fronted shelter, dubbed “the Coop,” where three other captives—Ciara (Georgina Campbell), Daniel (Oliver Finnegan), and Madeline (Olwen Fouéré)—have been living. At night, the mysterious Watchers come to observe them, while during the day, the captives are free to roam the forest under the threat of death if caught outside at night.

The intrigue of “The Watchers” lies in its mysteries: who the Watchers are, what they want, and the secrets each captive holds. The film’s high-contrast cinematography creates an oppressive atmosphere complete with a dark, eerie forest. This visual style and clever use of mirrors set an unsettling tone.

The film has potential but is undermined by its disjointed structure. The narrative fails to maintain its initial tension, resolving its mysteries way too quickly. The third act feels formulaic, focusing on research and revelations that lack impact. The pacing leaves viewers waiting for a climactic twist that never arrives.

The theme of duplication and Mina’s strained relationship with her twin, are introduced but not fully explored. The story’s most compelling parts are front-loaded, with the later sections feeling like a slow unraveling of that initial suspense.

Despite its flaws, “The Watchers” presents an intriguing premise and striking visuals. If you go into it understanding that it leans more towards a fantastical narrative than a traditional horror you might enjoy it more. At the end of the day, “The Watchers” is a peculiar blend of supernatural suspense and folkloric fantasy that struggles to pay off the opening setup.

Isabella Jordan