Written by: Chloe Okuno
Starring: Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman, Burn Gorman, Tudor Petruț, Mădălina Anea
For as much as we feel the need to invent horrific figures for horror films in order to build a terrifying story, one could argue that living in a patriarchal society as a woman serves as its own horror that can be filmed and bring the scares. The fact that they can be attacked by a random man if they do not provide the wanted attention or for many other reasons alone must make any moment they are out in the world petrifying. Watcher uses this very idea to craft a tight and enjoyable paranoia-inducing feature that most women would agree serves as one of their worst realistic nightmares.
Julia (Maika Monroe) has moved to Bucharest, Romania with her partner, Francis (Karl Glusman), for a great job opportunity for him. Not knowing the language and with Francis working long hours, Julia finds herself navigating the city on her own and she gets the suspicious feeling that someone has been watching her. This initial paranoia turns into a substantial fear when it begins to materialize into something very real.
It is a matter of fact that there are many things men do not have to worry about or even need to have a passing thought about that constantly rings through a woman’s head when out in the world, especially when out alone. Whether it be having their keys in hand and ready to go when heading to their vehicle or having some sort of protection ready in case an attacker comes their way, it’s a reality that faces so many women worldwide. The worst part of it all comes when women try to raise concerns about this fear to others and have it dismissed because of accusations of paranoia. History shows that it’s not until the inevitable happens to the woman that there comes a realization that she should be listened to. Julia experiences this to a frightening degree and this is what makes this such an effective film overall.
On top of the general fear in being a woman, it certainly does not also help that Julia finds herself in a country where she cannot communicate with others unless they speak English and she obviously does not know the local customs. What can be seen as strange could be a misunderstanding of cultural differences, but Julia knows when she feels threatened and when a particular man seemingly always tends to be in the same area as her, it quickly becomes frightening.
The horror on display in this feature mostly lies in the building of paranoia continually building for Julia. She can no longer sleep and she feels the presence of this individual even when he is not physically around. It becomes psychological on top of the physical harm that can occur as well. Something that becomes deeply embedded in her mind becomes a fact that she knows very much in her gut, but it becomes difficult to convince others of. Whether it be the police or her partner, which very much sounds like a familiar situation for many women feeling the same. The film is so effective in this regard and when it gets to the climax of the feature, it pretty much goes the way one would expect with this genre.
With there scarcely being a scene without her presence, Maika Monroe received the opportunity to front this film and she did not squander the opportunity. She does a good job of displaying the anguish and paranoia in Julia’s mind with every day becoming even more difficult for her. A daily accumulation of fear that only gets worse and the wear it has on her psychologically gets displayed through Moore’s performance. Even in subtler ways, she delivers in selling everything going through Julia’s mind as she becomes a major reason why this film works as a whole.
Suspenseful throughout and wrapping up with an outrageous finale, Watcher provides entertainment and another solid entry into this genre. It allows for a slow build of paranoia to continue to build throughout until it explodes into something that she needs to handle if she wants to see another day. It makes for an entertaining viewing experience overall and while it does necessarily bring anything new, it certainly hits home a hard truth about the dangers of being a woman in any corner of the world for those who tend to forget.