Final Girls Berlin Film Festival – American couple Julia and Francis move to Bucharest for Francis' work. Their apartment has wide windows that face the opposite side to the same building where Julia notices there is always a man watching them. Setting off a chain of events where she believes she is being followed by this man, in the city there is a serial killer who decapitating women on the loose, could this be the same person?
Despite being a simple story on the surface, the atmosphere is intense and mistrustful in Chloe Okuno directorial feature debut. Watcher is both a stalker horror and voyeuristic lowkey thriller that balances the paranoia Julia feels with the mundane but sweet moments she shares Francis.
The openness of the windows in the apartment building makes it very easy for anyone to becomes voyeurs. People watching is an activity we could be all guilty of, but that everyday glance through the window is turned into a tense slow boil thriller by Okuno. Including the terrifying serial killer in the background that gives the other characters something to discuss, deterring further from the real danger that Julia knows is close. There are the predictable moments which include her partner Francis trying to rationalise everything and the neighbours who just see her as ‘the dramatic American woman'. But the real moments of terror are created through over sterilised quiet scenes, in particular when Julia comes face to face with the ‘watcher' on a deserted train.
Julia is a ready-made outsider the second the film starts. Not knowing the language is already a barrier but the fact that she is also trying to figure out her next step in her career alienates her further from those around her. At first Julia wonders the city, exploring, not staying cooped up in her new home. But when she sees the man in the apartment across constantly watching her, she becomes isolated. The ‘watcher' is able to completely cut her off from any support without even talking to her. We witness Julia's psyche slowly crumble even though she never believes herself to be crazy or fabricating the ‘watcher' and their presence. Julia doesn't go the way other protagonists have gone when faced with an unnerving entity, she is still strong in her resolve. Maika Monroe is perfect for this role. Further cementing herself at the current scream queen, making Julia more than a one note damsel who thinks she's losing her mind.
By no means is the baseline plot original but it's the carefully crafted scenes and quiet sense of menace that hangs in the air that make Watcher a fresh horror thriller.
Watcher will screen at Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2023 and is now available on DVD & Blu-ray.