“Watcher” follows Julia, an American who moves to Bucharest with her husband, Francis. While Francis is fluent in the language–his mother is Romanian–Julia is not, and struggles with the language barrier. Even worse, she also finds herself being watched by a man in the adjacent apartment building, and comes to believe that not only is he stalking her, but that he is a serial killer.It goes without saying that “Watcher” is playing with a familiar concept–this is a premise we have seen in a large number of films, most famously in Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” but “Watcher” also pays respects to Roman Polanski’s “apartment” films, most notably (and effectively) “The Tenant” (the other two being “Rosemary’ Baby” and “Repulsion”). What makes it stand out, however, is that it is well-acted, visually elegant, and at times throttling in its suspense. There are a number of scenes in this film that (no pun intended) grab you by the throat.”Watcher” is the breed of film that toes the line regarding whether or not the fears and paranoias of the protagonist are legitimate, or the product of something else, but director Chloe Okuno telegraphs it intelligently by positioning the audience in tandem with Julia–as we watch her sink into her isolation, we are isolated alongside her–and it is because of this that her fears play out as believable, despite her husband’s skepticism. The writing here is both subtle and smart, and there are a few key moments that are as dislocating to the viewer as they are to the protagonist; the screenplay is multi-pronged in a way that makes the audience question not what they are seeing, but rather, what it is indicative of. Julia’s disconnect from the language only helps to reinforce a sense of suffocation, and the gloomy, rain-soaked Art Deco architecture of the city only amplifies the sense of unease.Of course, none of this would work without a believable lead, and Maika Monroe plays this character very effectively. Burn Gorman is also extremely effective as the mysterious creep across the way. The film’s finale, though tense, is still fairly downbeat (which is the status quo in this film), but it offers enough grand guignol to be memorable and shocking. In the end, while “Watcher” is not necessarily revelatory, it is a well-crafted, nervy take on a well-worn concept. There are some standout moments in this film that make it worth watching for any genre fan. 7/10.
Stars : Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman, Burn Gorman, Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman, Burn Gorman
Genre : Drama, Horror, Thriller