I had solid luck the other day when I decided to fire up They Look Like People on Netflix based purely on the title. It ended up being an entertaining, if a little slight, thriller. I decided to give that method another shot and blindly fired up They’re Watching without even glancing at the short plot synopsis, as that too is a pretty solid name for a horror movie. Maybe lightning can strike twice right? Well according to science no it can’t, so I should have listened to science to begin with and spared myself from watching They’re Watching.
It starts out promising enough as we see footage from a fake home renovation show that is focusing on a couple buying a home in a small village in Moldova. My wife has exposed me to enough of these sorts of shows that I was actually on board for a movie to take the piss out of them a little bit. Or maybe even focus a horror movie around the world of these shows. That isn’t what this movie is unfortunately. Instead, the crew comes back a month later to film the follow-up segment and check-in on how the couple is doing and how their planned renovations are coming along. Almost the entire movie is spent as they run around the area acting like assholes, and then occasionally a villager stares at them creepily. So they are in fact watching, the title isn’t a lie, but they sure as shit aren’t doing anything interesting. Oh, and occasionally it’s mentioned that the town has a history with witch burnings, though there are long stretches of time where that whole bit of business seems to be completely forgotten.
The main problem with this movie is the characters. If we’re going to spend a lot of time just watching these guys hang out and talk, they better be people we want to spend that time with. This is not a group of people I would stand to be around for more than 5 minutes in real life, so the 90 minutes I had to spend with them here was excruciating. It reminded me of the problem so many Eli Roth movies suffer from where the core group is as bunch of American tourists visiting a foreign land that spend the entire time making fun of everyone and acting like complete assholes. One character even screams into the camera that she can’t believe there isn’t a Starbucks anywhere. I don’t want to watch these people! There is exactly one likable character amongst the main group, Vladmir. He’s a local guy who initially helps the couple find the house and then finds himself along on the adventure later. He’s a fun and likable dude and it sucks he has to spend so much time hanging around with this group of fuckin’ knuckleheads.
It would maybe help if these idiots were doing something interesting, but they never are. So much of this movie is just them hanging out and drinking and doing nothing. I wouldn’t be surprised if much of the dialogue here was improvised, and I also wouldn’t be surprised if the people behind the camera would talk about how funny everyone in the cast is and how great they all are at improving. They are not at all good at improving. At all. They are in fact, terrible at improving. They almost never say anything funny but boy they sure do seem to think they are a non-stop laugh riot, often stopping just shy of giving the camera that Guy Fieri “You hear that funny shit I just said?” look.
So if all these characters are irritating dickheads, at least we get the typical horror movie satisfaction of seeing them all get killed off right? Well, no not really. Things really don’t escalate in this movie until the last 15 minutes, though to the movie’s credit, it escalates quickly. I mean it really gets out of hand fast. The floodgates are opened and the final sequence is an over-the-top bloodbath that would be far more enjoyable if the whole thing wasn’t full of bad CGI. It’s still a fun jolt of energy in a movie that desperately needed it, though even in the finale we’re stuck with the worst character of the movie behind the camera which takes away some of the enjoyment.
I did not care for They’re Watching. It takes forever to get anywhere but none of the lead-up is tense or interesting. A fun sequence at the end can’t make up for all the dreadful material before it, and it’s full of characters I wanted to put on mute most of the time. Nooooooope!