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Watcher can now be added to the horror highlights of the year with its lean, simplistic, claustrophobic and occasionally shocking little tale of paranoia.

A tight, taut thriller, Watcher sees a young American woman (Maika Monroe) move with her husband (Karl Glusman) to Bucharest, and begins to suspect that a stranger (Burn Gorman) who watches her from the apartment building across the street may be a local serial killer decapitating women.

Utter tripe such as Prey for the Devil and The Invitation aside, the year of 2022 has certainly been a strong one for the horror and thriller genres, with Barbarian, Prey, Nope, Smile, Cabinet of Curiosities and more providing plenty of scares, thrills and fun throughout the year. Watcher can now also be added to these highlights with its lean, simplistic, claustrophobic and occasionally shocking little tale of paranoia.

Watcher does a fantastic job of immediately making you relate to Julia’s (Monroe) sense of loneliness due to the harsh language barrier, her husband’s frequent late-night dedication to his job and the hovering presence of a brutal murder the ricochets across the neighbourhood. From a structural and narrative beat perspective the film certainly doesn’t break any particularly new ground, but it does what it sets out do impressively. It does manage to plant a myriad of prediction seeds that will no doubt pop up during certain sequences, though really you know exactly where it is going to end up.

What’s also incredibly effective is the usage of blurring and a shallow depth of field. Keeping Julia’s pursuer frequently out of focus and having her nearly always centre of the frame will have you squinting and peering to get a glimpse at her pursuer. The cinematography is slick and the muted, dulled set designs and greyed exterior of the streets craft a neutered and unwelcoming welcoming presence. The sound design is also strong. The film is frequently quiet, so the moments of heavy breathing, a train hurtling past and gunshots being fired slide through with satisfying impact.

Maika Monroe is great here. Her spiralling sense of isolation, danger, anxiety and loneliness is well portrayed and she does get her moments of genuine bite and vitriol. Burn Gorman’s piercing, subdued, low-toned and deadpanned expressions, movements and line delivery crafts an aura of discomfort.

Watcher is a very solid little thriller that is certainly worth pursuing. Maika Monroe gives a strong lead performance, the creative camera angles, blurring and depth of field usage consistently works and the tone of the feature effortlessly nails the unease. It is admittedly very formulaic in a lot of its plot beats and due to the runtime some elements do feel like they could have been fleshed out a bit more.


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