The Watchers

The Watchers
Original title:The Watchers
Director:Ishana Night Shyamalan
Running time:102 minutes
Release date:07 june 2024
Lost in a forest, Mina finds refuge in a house already occupied by three people. She discovers the rules of this very secret place: every night, the inhabitants must allow themselves to be watched by the forest's mysterious occupants. They can't see them, but they watch everything.

Mulder's Review

Ishana Night Shyamalan's debut feature, The Watchers, is a spellbinding entry into the horror genre that showcases the budding filmmaker's talent and potential. Strongly influenced by the style of her father M. Night Shyamalan, the film nevertheless forges its own identity thanks to a captivating narrative, powerful images and a thorough exploration of psychological horror.

The film opens with a chilling prologue that sets the tone for the rest of the story. A man frantically tries to escape from a dense, misty forest in the west of Ireland, only to meet a macabre fate at the hands of unseen, rumbling beasts. This introduction immediately immerses the audience in the film's sinister, ominous atmosphere. We then meet Mina, played by Dakota Fanning. Mina is an American expatriate living in Galway, Ireland, who works in a pet shop and struggles with a traumatic past. Dakota Fanning's portrayal of Mina is compelling, capturing both her vulnerability and her determination. Mina's journey begins when she is tasked with delivering a golden parrot to Belfast, a seemingly straightforward errand that plunges her into a nightmare.

Ireland's lush landscapes are both beautiful and menacing, brilliantly captured by cinematographer Eli Arenson. The forest, described as a place that attracts lost souls, becomes a character in its own right, its claustrophobic, labyrinthine nature heightening the film's tension. The visual composition of the forest scenes, with their dense fog and towering trees, is reminiscent of classic horror films, creating a sense of unease and impending doom. Mina's journey through the forest quickly turns into a nightmare when her car breaks down and she meets Madeline, played by Olwen Fouéré. Madeline, with her intense wild hair and in-depth knowledge of the forest, is a captivating character. Olwen Fouéré's performance adds a layer of mysticism and gravity to the film, making it one of its most striking elements.

In a concrete bunker with a one-way mirror, Mina meets two other captives: Ciara, played by Georgina Campbell, and Daniel, played by Oliver Finnegan. Georgina Campbell, known for her role in Barbarian , plays Ciara with nuance, balancing fear and resilience. Olivier Finnegan's interpretation of Daniel adds a touch of unpredictability, as his character oscillates between hope and despair. The dynamic between these characters is at the heart of the film's tension. Locked away in the Coop, they must abide by strict rules to avoid the wrath of the Watchers, invisible entities who watch them every night through the mirror. The ritual of standing in front of the mirror, knowing they are being watched, appeals to deep-seated fears of surveillance and judgment, effectively heightening suspense.

The Watchers tackles themes of guilt, redemption and the nature of fear. Mina's story, involving a tragic accident that claimed her mother's life, is the source of her deep-seated guilt and guides her actions throughout the film. This personal trauma is paralleled by the external horrors she faces, creating a rich and complex narrative. The film also explores notions of voyeurism and performance. The bunker, with its mirrored wall, becomes a stage where the characters are forced to perform for their unseen captors. This configuration reflects the nature of reality TV, subtly criticizing the voyeuristic tendencies of modern society. The fact that the characters are aware of being watched influences their behavior, adding psychological depth to their interactions.

The golden parrot, named Darwin, serves as a symbolic element throughout the film. His ability to mimic human speech and his bright, showy color contrast sharply with the dark, oppressive environment of the forest and the cooperative. Darwin's presence underscores the themes of survival and adaptation, echoing Mina's own struggle to adapt and survive in her new reality. Ishana Night Shyamalan demonstrates a keen understanding of horror filmmaking techniques. His use of lighting, sound and camera angles effectively creates an atmosphere of dread. The sound design, filled with ominous noises and whispers, reinforces the presence of the invisible guards, making the darkness outside the co-op vivid and menacing.

Ishana Night Shyamalan's direction is marked by restraint and subtlety. It relies on suggestion and atmosphere rather than explicit violence, creating a more psychological form of horror. This approach is evident in the scenes where Mina ventures into the forest or explores the burrows of the Watchers. The tension in these moments is palpable, built up through meticulous pacing and strategic use of jump scares. The film's visual style is both striking and consistent, with a color palette that shifts from the natural greens and browns of the forest to the cold, sterile grays of the Coop. This contrast underlines the characters' passage from the familiar to the unknown, from safety to danger.

The Watchers is well structured, gradually unveiling its mysteries while maintaining a constant current of dread. The screenplay, adapted from A.M. Shine's novel, balances exposition and action, allowing the plot to progress without getting bogged down in unnecessary detail. The rules governing the characters' survival in the Coop are introduced naturally, allowing the audience to grasp the stakes without feeling overwhelmed. The film's pace is deliberate, allowing moments of quiet tension to build up before offering explosions of horror. This rhythm keeps the audience on its toes, constantly on the lookout for the next revelation or scare. The progression of the story, from Mina's initial journey to the deeper, more dangerous mysteries of the forest, is deftly handled and maintains suspense throughout.

As Mina and her companions discover their situation and the nature of the Watchers, the film builds in tension. The final act is filled with revelations and confrontations both satisfying and terrifying. While the film doesn't shy away from giving answers, it leaves some questions unanswered, adding to its unsettling nature. The resolution of Mina's personal journey is particularly poignant, offering a glimpse of redemption and closure in the midst of horror. This balance between personal and supernatural elements is one of the film's strengths, rooting its fantastical elements in human emotion.

The Watchers is a remarkable debut that establishes Ishana Night Shyamalan as a promising new voice in horror cinema. With its solid performances, atmospheric setting and psychological depth, the film offers a rich, immersive experience that lingers long after the credits roll. While drawing on the stylistic influences of her father's work, Ishana Night Shyamalan brings her own vision to the genre, creating a film that is both an homage and a departure from her cinematic heritage. For fans of intelligent, character-driven horror films, The Watchers is a must-see. It combines the best elements of classic horror with contemporary sensibilities, creating a film that is as thought-provoking as it is terrifying. With this impressive debut, Ishana Night Shyamalan has proven that she has the talent and vision to make her mark in the world of cinema.

The Watchers
Written and directed by Ishana Night Shyamalan
Based on The Watchers by A. M. Shine
Produced by M. Night Shyamalan, Ashwin Rajan, Nimitt Mankad
Starring Dakota Fanning, Georgina Campbell, Olwen Fouéré, Oliver Finnegan
Cinematography : Eli Arenson
Edited by Job ter Burg
Music by Abel Korzeniowski
Production companies: New Line Cinema, Blinding Edge Pictures, Inimitable Pictures
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date : June 7, 2024 (United States), June 12 2024 (France)
Running time : 102 minutes

Seen on June 05, 2024 at UGC Le Majestic Meaux , room 5 seat E7

Mulder's Mark: