Film Review: They’re Watching

Was casting the net about on Netflix, looking for something interesting to watch, when the suggestions coughed up a little flick called They’re Watching; from the description, it sounded like a sort of updated Blair Witch; camera crew heads out and finds more than they bargained for, this footage being their last testament to the world.

Sounded alright, so I clicked. One thing to note, it’s rather long. Just a hair over two hours, I believe. Which is pretty lengthy for a horror flick, especially one that is essentially the work of unknowns. Not an instant “Nope,” but something that bears mentioning, as usually 90 minutes is about as long of a welcome as this sort of material has with most folks.

For the first hour and 45 minutes, I was actually reasonably entertained. The camera work is done well, and because the crew – in this case, employees of a network producing a reality show about worldwide house-hunters and renovators – seem to actually know how to use their toys, we’re treated to far less of the “shaky cam” that usually permeates such fare. When it does happen, it’s because something interesting or exciting is happening, so it actually accentuates the film instead of just leaving you nauseated the entire time. The cast and characters, while being a little stereotypical, are all well done and fit nicely into their roles, and the mystery of just what’s going on is doled out in properly suspenseful nuggets. Perhaps a little slowly – the viewer will likely get to the punchline long before the characters do – but all in all it was done well. It had humor, suspense and a dash of mystery without beating you over the head with any of it.

Then the last fifteen minutes happen, and pretty much crap all over the rest of the movie. It felt like an art-focused director or writer had come to a studio, hat in hand, with an almost finished movie that was pretty good, and asked for some help getting it out there, and the studio execs smiled and nodded and told our little artists that they had a fine movie, one everyone should see… But there’s just this one, really tiny, change they’d like to make. Kay? Then they hired Michael Bay and Paul W.S. Anderson to scribble in an ending to appeal to the mass market and cackled while the original artists recoiled in terror at the abomination that was the result.

I prefer to believe that. It makes it easier. Otherwise I have to think that the same folks who made the first 7/8ths of the movie, the well-done and amusing hour and forty-five minutes that was set to a slow burn with a dramatic reveal that would probably leave all our characters dead and nothing but a black screen to show for it, actually intended for fifteen minutes of massive, badly CG’d explosions of gore that kept making me think of Mortal Kombat fatalities. That those same people who had done such an interesting job with the scene of the stupid Americans defiling a somber funeral, who had perfectly conveyed a party-gone-wrong when the Americans almost bond with the natives and then spoil it by throwing around the wrong word at just the wrong (or right?) time, who had managed to keep a delicious twist properly hinted at and yet not completely blasted out or spoiled before the final reveal, had actually intended for this low-rent, ill-fitting and utterly retarded ending to their masterpiece.

Yeah. I want to believe outside meddling and a second crew tacked that on at the last minute. Because it hurts too much inside otherwise.

Had the movie gone it’s course as the majority of the film seemed to be setting up, I’d easily give it three, edging into four stars. As it is, leaving such a nasty taste in my mouth, it gets two. Barely. And that mainly on the strengths of the first portion, a bitter nostalgia for the film we could have had.

The real thing to consider: Is it worth watching? Well, that depends. How good are you at pausing, pretending something else happened, and skipping the last fifteen minutes? If that’s something you feel you can do in good conscience, then by all means, give it a watch. When the power goes out, just assume our villain dispatches the remainder of the crew while the camera sits on the floor records it all, then snap to black or our villain’s face as they heft the device and cackle into it. You’ll be satisfied.

For those of us who had to be exposed to the telportation, lightning bolts, dudes getting turned into acid-spewing piles of frogs and all the rest, however… No. A million “nopes.” Do not engage.

What about you folks? Have you seen it? What did you think? Let us know in the box below!

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