Liz’s Review: Watcher (SXSW 2022)

Scary DVDs! Woo!
Credit: ImageNation AbuDhabi
★★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Chloe Okuno

Julia (Maika Monroe, It Follows) and her Romanian husband Francis (Karl Glusman, The Neon Demon) have just uprooted their lives in New York to move to Bucharest, Romania after Francis received a promotion at work. Julia doesn’t speak the language and has no job so she is left to spend her days alone exploring the city and setting up their new apartment. The apartment has huge windows that look into the building across the street and when Julia looks out, she always sees an imposing figure looking back at her. Francis says she’s just being paranoid but Julia feels otherwise.

One night, while heading to dinner the couple encounter a crime scene a few blocks away from where neighbors say a young woman was found dead in her apartment and that she had been decapitated. Moreover, she is not the first victim in a string of gruesome murders.

While Francis is constantly working, Julia finally makes a friend, her next-door neighbor, Irinia (Madelina Area) who works as a dancer in a strip club. Julia discovers that the “watcher” (who is now not only watching but may now be following her) is the janitor at the club where Irina works. Julia continues to try to convince Francis that she is not being paranoid and even calls the police to investigate the strange man across the street; a plan that backfires when he tells the police that she is in fact following him!

The pressure of the perceived stalking, coupled with being alone in a strange country and being gaslighted by her husband drives Julia to pack up her things and get ready to go back home, but her plans to escape are thwarted when the watcher (Burn Gorman, Pacific Rim) confronts her on the subway and it becomes Julia’s responsibility to prove her sanity.

The Director, Chloe Okuno

Watcher is one slow burn of a magnificent horror film and it is hard to believe that this is Chloe Okuno’s debut feature! She uses the setting and film score to create atmosphere and slowly build tension flawlessly culminating with a shocking gut-punch of an ending. I hope we’ll be seeing many more horror films from Okuno.

Watcher is scheduled to be released in theaters on June 3rd by IFC Midnight and will be streaming VOD June 21!

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