I picked They’re Watching a Horror-Comedy, written and directed by Jay Lender and Micah Wright. Who just happen to be the writers for Spongebob Squarepants as proudly proclaimed by the poster. Honestly I’m not the biggest fan of that show, having seen only what my friends who are fans of the show claim aren’t the best. Not that I think it’s bad a show, it just came a little past my time and never took the time to give it an honest shot. That said, I can see why the show’s writing gets the praise it does, as They’re Watching is incredibly well written, full of fun and like-able characters and just might be the best written show I’ve seen in a while.
The show opens at the end, with Sarah Ellroy (Mia Faith) getting an ax to the face before a gun’s leveled at the camera man Alex Torini (Kris Lemche). They’re Watching then cuts away to six months prior with footage for House Hunters International with hopeful home buyers Becky Westlake (Brigid Brannagh) and her boyfriend Goran Potsnik (Cristian Balint) being shown a home by a real-estate agent Vladimir Filat (Dimitri Diatchenko) in the small country of Moldova. Becky falls for the run town house and decides to purchase it, even though it is in desperate need of repairs. They’re Watching shifts again, this time to the current day with Sarah, Alex and Greg Abernathy (Daivid Alpay) traveling to Moldova to film the house transformation. When they reach the small town they set out to do some filming. Sarah and Greg split off from Alex, who goes to buy weed and the pair end up in a small church. Where they end up filming a funeral for three children, without permission. Which of course upsets the locals, causing the local Constable (Mircea Constantinescu) to step in to settle the situation. The three rejoin up before heading to the hotel where they meet up with the shows host Kate Banks (Carrie Genzel) and Vladimir before heading to Becky’s house. They do some light filming due the light constraints from arriving far later than planned. After they return to town, Vladimir takes the crew to the local pub/restaurant. Things are tense with locals, but with Vladimir’s aid they’re able to mend bridges with locals… temporary. Until Sarah calls Kate a witch during a friendly game of name calling. The new level of animosity cases the crew and Vladimir to peace out back to the hotel in hopes of an early start. They return to Becky’s where she shows off all the work she’s done along with painted murals found in the wine cellar that were obscured when she purchased it with soot for years of torches being used down there. Everything is going fairly well until Alex is bit by a dog and rushed to the town’s only doctor where he’s stitched up. The return again to the hotel followed by the final day at Becky’s. When they arrive, they find number of locals standing in the woods watching the house. Which gets worse when they’re only vehicle gets destroyed trapping them miles from help…
The best part of this film is the lore around which they build the film and by extension the dread. The town’s history with witch burnings is often at the forefront. It feels a lot like many werewolf films, just sub out the werewolves for witches and you pretty much have it. The villagers never come off as unreasonable and many of their clashes come more from the blatant insensitivity of the crew over that of maliciousness of the villagers. Really who films a funeral without permission? Dick move.
Most of the characters are very fun and interesting. Vladimir played by Dimitri Diatchenko, who I mostly recognize from his extensive work as a voice actor. Diatchenko delivers the best performance and Vladimir certainly comes off as like-able person in this film. The crew gets a little annoying with their constant infighting and bickering. Although this does make them feel more like actual coworkers adding to the films sense of realism.
My only issue is the twist at the end. Causing the whole ending to feel a bit janky and out-of-place with the tone of the rest of the film. Causing it to feel ham-handed and rushed at best, poorly executed at worst. Though oddly enough it did surprise me, which I do have to give it bonus points as Horror film’s don’t often do that for me much anymore.
Final thoughts, it’s good. Though I won’t go so far as to call it excellent, but it’s close. I’m a fan of found footage style films and shooting from the perspective of a professional film crew leads to cleaner feeling film as it lacks the shaky cam the genre is so well-known for. They’re Watching is full of believable organic performances and some great writing and character moments. With the odd ending being the film’s only weak spot. 8.5/10