Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


Review: They’re Watching – “Fresh, funny, frightening and freaky”


Released in US cinemas and on VOD worldwide on the 25th of March, They’re Watching is the feature film debut of Jay Lender and Micah Wright. Wright and Lender have cut their teeth on cartoons and video games, having previously worked on everything from Spongebob Squarepants to Call of Duty. This eclecticism, and knack for sharp snappy smart immediate storytelling shines in They’re Watching, which is a weird, fun, scary and rad ride along the line between comedy and horror.

Greg (David Alpay), Kate (Carrie Genzel) and Alex (Kris Lemche) make a reality TV programme called “Home Hunters Global”. It’s like “A Place in the Sun” – one of those shows where someone who wants to buy a place abroad is filmed viewing properties, before selecting their new digs and making the move. Becky (Brigid Brannagh) is an L.A. potter who wants to relocate to a remote village in the eastern European country of Moldova with her hubby Goran (Christian Balint) – a professional soccer player. Along with a local estate agent, Vladimir (Dimitri Diatchenko), the gang find her a bit of a fixer-upper in the woods where there was once a witch burning.

Six months later, Greg, Kate and Alex – along with Kate’s new assistant Sarah (Mia Faith) – return to Moldova to shoot the follow-up episode, and see how Becky has got on settling in and doing up her dump. Becky is great, and the house is now a show home, but she is still seen as an outsider by the wary and superstitious locals. So when our crew arrive and get all up in their collective face, start filming kids funerals, and yelling “witch!” in bars where they’ve been flashing their cash, the messed up stare-y psycho locals descend on Becky’s house, trapping everyone inside. Our principals begin to be offed in grisly ways and must somehow survive until lunchtime tomorrow when Goran will arrive and hopefully rescue them.

They’re Watching is not afraid to spend a lot of time building up each and every one of its main characters. Plenty of screen time is spent getting to know everybody beyond merely being sketched before being killed. In the wrong hands this could have been dull, and left us pining for some blood-soaked action, but Lender and Wright’s pithy punchy writing, performed by a charismatic cast, make it all fly by, and leave us heavily invested in everybody by the time things go full-on survival horror in the final third; then leave jaws on floors when they pull a satisfyingly nuts surprise from their sleeve.

Sound recordist Alex (Lemche) is a sarcastic dick – so was obviously my favourite – and is partnered by cameraman Greg (Alpay), who has a smidgen of PTSD after seeing some stuff during a job in Afghanistan. Presenter, Kate, is a way harsh bossy bitch with a secret and a stick up her butt, but Carrie Genzel plays her as a relateable, flawed, under-pressure leader being let down by some kids who just want to have fun, keeping us caring and not hating what could have been a simple panto villain of a character in other hands.

The naïve, maybe not quite right Becky feels underwritten for a while – but is given huge scope in the last part; while PA Sarah has a dual role: having a knack for saying the wrong thing and making things worse, as well as being our literal POV – shooting what we’re seeing through a hidden camera. Loveable disco Dracula estate agent, Vladimir (Diatchenko) is an excellent character too. A Romanian Sallah from Raiders, with a positive attitude and some massive collars, Diatchenko is clearly having fun here, and it’s easy to see how he would be everybody’s best friend.

They’re Watching also has a sense of self enough to slip in simple throwaway explanations for the inability to use a mobile to call for help: “the cell phone service is… not so good”, and the classic “why are they still filming?”: “memory cards are cheap, and I don’t want to miss a shot”. It should be standard, but it’s basic storytelling courtesy like this that keeps the film constantly winning you over. From its They Live title font to its almost underhanded humour, to the loads of small real moments that sync us up with our plucky band, plenty of effort has been made to create an appealing involving lived-in world that even has its own delicious fictitious Moldovan candy bar: “Doina”.

The film “Borat’s” the Moldovans something fierce, and the budget visibly starts to strain at the ambitious and awesome ending, but with its bags of charm, great characters, and a dark riptide that you can always sense pulling at you from underneath no matter how light the preamble, They’re Watching is a bit special. Fresh, funny, frightening and freaky, it’s like Hostel meets The Cabin in the Woods.



One Comment

  1. It’s quite an interesting movie that will excite you from start to finish. It’s a must see movie of the year. THEY’RE WATCHING is one excellent movie.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.