Watcher (2022) poster

Watcher (2022)


USA. 2022.


Director/Screenplay – Chloe Okuno, Based on a Screenplay by Derek Ford, Producers – Derek Dauchy, John Finemore, Aaron Kaplan, Roy Lee, Mason Novick, Sean Perrone & Steven Schneider, Photography – Benjamin Kirk Nielsen, Music – Nathan Halpern, Special Effects Supervisor – Daniel Pirvulesu, Production Design – Nora Dumitrescu. Production Company – Spooky Pictures/Lost City.


Maika Monroe (Julia), Karl Glusman (Francis), Burn Gorman (Watcher/Weber), Madalina Anea (Irina), Flavian Crisan (Simon), Gabriela Butic (Flavia), Florian Ghimpu (Officer Radu), Christina Deleanu (Eleonora), Daniel Nuta (Christian), Ioana Abur (Simon’s Wife), Stefan Iancu (Store Worker)


Julia moves to Bucharest from New York City with her husband Francis so that he can take up a positon with an advertising agency. Julia soon feels alienated alone in the apartment all day and not speaking the language when she goes out. While out for an evening walk, the two of them come across a crime scene where the police are dealing with latest victim of a serial killer who beheads his victims. Sitting at the window of the apartment, Julia comes to believe that the person in the apartment opposite is watching her. While out shopping, she believes that the watcher is following her and may be the killer. Francis and the police confront the neighbour and then try to tell Julia that she is imagining things.

Watcher was a feature-length debut for director Chloe Okuno who had previously directed the Storm Drain episode of V/H/S/94 (2021). The film was produced by Roy Lee whose US-based Vertigo Entertainment production company has been behind the spate of Asian films bought up and remade for English-language release with the likes of Dark Water (2005), The Departed (2006), The Lake House (2006), The Eye (2008), The Uninvited (2009), Oldboy (2013) and Death Note (2017), among others.

Watcher reminds of a body of films from the late 1970s/early 1980s, which were centred around themes of people spying on others across the way between apartment buildings and either finding evidence of killers or that they were being stalked by killers. These included John Carpenter’s Someone’s Watching Me (1978), Eyes of a Stranger (1981) and The Seduction (1982), although the progenitor of these was Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954).

While many of these others are works about someone finding evidence of a crime, Watcher comes closest to Someone’s Watching Me and to a lesser extent The Seduction in that it is about a woman who feels that the person watching is stalking her. Unlike all of the abovelisted, Watcher is the only of these films directed and written by a woman. As a result, the focus is centred around the woman protagonist’s fears in not being listened to and rationalisations made by others that dismiss her concerns.

Maika Monroe in Watcher (2022)
Maika Monroe in the apartment

The plot covers material familiar from these other films but Chloe Okuno does a very nice job directing. The mood is subdued so that when we suddenly see the silhouette of the figure in the window raise its hand as Maika Monroe’s back is turned, the effect is quite chilling. Similarly, Chloe places us in the shoes of Maika’s paranoia and tensions, especially during the scenes in the supermarket, or where she persuades a stranger (Daniel Nuta) to go and knock on the neighbour’s door.

All of this works well. Chloe Okuno’s mood is superbly controlled and works with undeniable effect when she ratchets things up. She is served by a fine cast – none more so than British actor Burn Gorman of perpetually sourly downturned lip who plays the psycho neighbour with some effect. The scene where he meets Maika Monroe on the train and rationalises his actions almost makes everything sound plausible and spin around on a dime.

Watcher should not to be confused with the Keanu Reeves as a serial killer film The Watcher (2000) or the Ryan Murphy suburban paranoia tv series The Watcher (2022) that came out four months later the same year.

Trailer here

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