The Watchers - Ishana Night Shymalan's directing debut!


I could have sworn there was an existing thread for this. Then I used the search feature and realized that it was @Yoda who had started a thread, but for the new movie from M. Night Shymalan.

This one (opening Friday) is directed by her daughter - which makes her a nepo baby, I suppose - but it opens up possibilities of a new Shymalan dynasty of moviemaking that could go on for (potentially) generations!

Here's a review, which I am posting without reading to avoid spoilers.

“The Watchers” is the first film directed by Ishana Night Shyamalan, the 24-year-old daughter of M. Night Shyamalan. Its title refers to a race of spindly ash-gray monsters who haunt an Irish woods, gathering at night around a concrete fortress where the film’s four characters have holed up in a state of semi-permanent refuge. The building has just one room, an entire wall of which is a two-way mirror through which the Watchers peer, all because..they like to watch.

At the same time, the title could almost be referring to anyone who will watch this movie with eyes on the inevitable question of how much of a chip off the old Shyamalan block it is. Is “The Watchers” a glossy/clever mystery horror thriller? Yes. Did Ishana Night Shyamalan, whose father is one of the producers, write the movie as well as direct it? Yes (though she adapted it from a 2022 novel by A.M. Shine). Is it derivative of many other movies and tropes? Yes, at least if you count “The Birds,” “The Blair Witch Project,” “Predator,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and dozens of anonymous night-world creature features. Does it have a twist ending? Yes, though the “twist” goes on for about 20 minutes and seems to include two or three separate twists (which kind of tamps down on the twisty fun of it all). Is I. Night Shyamalan a filmmaker with a future or a one-shot nepo baby?

The jury is still out. For a while, “The Watchers” is a reasonably well-made lost-in-the-woods horror movie, one that draws you in like a puzzle whose rules you need to learn (just as the characters do). Shyamalan’s only previous credit is directing six episodes of the Apple series “Servant,” but she has learned her craft.

Mina (Dakota Fanning), an enigmatic lass who works in a pet store in Galway, is asked to deliver a talking orange parakeet to a client in Belfast. During the trip, she drives through a sinister forest full of trees with tall straight thin trunks, only to get out and discover that her car has vanished, and that she’s now trapped. In the prelude sequence, we’ve already seen someone get sucked into a hole in the ground of this woods; we also saw a sign that says “Point of no return” coupled with a mysterious numeral (108).

Mina soon spies an older woman with white hair who’s beckoning her to come to the house in the middle of the woods. She does, and enters. The white-haired woman is named Madeleine, and she’s kind of the mistress of ceremonies. The Irish actress Olwen Fouéré conjures up the image of Galadriel from “The Lord of the Rings” as played by Sir Ben Kingsley. She’s an impishly imperious den mother of the macabre.

Madeleine, a former professor of folklore, lays down the law, and there are plenty of them. At night, the characters must stand in a line in front of the mirror, so that the Watchers can gawk at them. During the day, they’re allowed to go outside, but can’t go past those “Point of no return” signs. They can’t go into the holes (though Mina, at one point, does, emerging with an old bicycle and several other artifacts). Yet even as I was trying to get the hang of the situation, I kept thinking of other, more basic questions, like: Where do the characters sleep? (The only furniture in the room is a red leather armchair and a lamp.) What do they eat? (There’s a reference to hunting, and we see a crow being killed, but the movie doesn’t get more specific than that.) And how do they pass the time without Wi-Fi?

Because, you see, they are stuck there and have been for a while. The brash Daniel (Oliver Finnegan) has been in the house for eight months, the more circumspect Ciara (Georgina Campbell) has been there for five months (it turns out her that her husband, John, disappeared — he was the victim in the opening scene), and Madeleine seems like she’s been there forever. She runs the place with an iron hand, so we know there’s more to her than meets the eye. Are these woodland survivors a cult that she’s the secret leader of?

Mina has a backstory of trauma, involving the death of her mother 15 years ago. It seems that she was not a well-behaved girl, and that she was acting up in the back seat of the car when her mother, trying to deal with her, smashed into another vehicle. So young Mina was responsible for her mother’s death. The reason this is relevant is that it connects with the backstory of the Watchers. They’re a race of fallen elves (or something), who covet humanity, but the more we learn about them the less interesting they become. That’s in part because they’re envisioned as tall, scaly-skinned beasts who scuttle around with that amplified liquid percussive sound that makes you go, “Oh, it’s Predator!” Not a lot of mystery there.

Ishana Night Shyamalan’s direction is mostly fine. Her screenplay is mostly a series of gambits piled on top of one another, adding up to a horror-movie crockpot, one that grows less creepy and effective as it goes along. We don’t have any great investment in the characters, and by the time we discover the bunker hidden under the fortress, where a professor (John Lynch) first went to study the Watchers, the film has begun to grow top-heavy with its mythology. Of course, it’s also a problem that if you’re going to play the busy and derivative mainstream-horror game, you’ve got to deliver, as in jump scares or moments that make us shiver in, you know, horror. “The Watchers” is too restrained for all that; it wants to be a kind of fairy tale. In this case, though, there’s too much impeccable pretension and not enough things that go bump in the Shyamalan night.

The Watchers

The Watchers is, well, watchable.

I had set my expectations fairly low, given the barrage of rather negative reviews. And, honestly, I don't know if people are being extra hard on the movie because the director, Ishana Night Shyamalan, happens to be the daughter of M. Night Shyamalan.

Has the anti-nepo baby fervor in pop culture contributed to that? Very possibly.

So, given that she's the daughter of an established director, I'll start out by saying that this isn't a terrible first effort, but it does make it seem that Ms Shyamalan is rather intent on copying the style of her father's films.

This puts her in a somewhat different category from other "nepo baby" directors, like Sofia Coppola, who has quite clearly set out to make a very different kind of film than those of her father.

At any rate, with somewhat lowered expectations, this movie is somewhat entertaining, although it probably isn't as scary as the marketing might be trying to make you believe.

I have no idea how faithful it is to the source material, a homonymous novel by A. M. Shine.

Taken on its own terms, the movie offers an interesting and utterly fantastical premise, and follows through with it.

(Yes, there is of course a twist late in the movie).

Whether you enjoy this movie or not, the younger Shyamalan's effort is somewhat promising, but one can only hope that in the future she will try to find a more personal kind of filmmaking that doesn't simply feel like a carbon copy of her father's movies.

(I have said as little as possible about the story because I think it's best enjoyed knowing as little as possible before going in - I don't even remember how much the trailers gave away, but the less you know, the better).

28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
The Watchers is a debut feature film from Ishana Night Shyamalan and despite the confidence behind the camera, you can still feel the influences from her father lingering here and there. Some predictable elements take away from the third act reveal and the core mystery is a little comical if you stop to think about it for a minute, but overall this wasn't too terrible.

Bad dialogue, wooden acting and filler scenes that serve little to no purpose makes it suffer though.
"A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have."

Suspect's Reviews

Saw it today, it was okay for what it was. The creatures looked cool, when you could see them. But the twist sucked. I probably wont see this again unless its with a group of people.
Last Movie Watched: Shark Bait (2022).
Last TV Show Watched: Shark Week (S36:E20).

I watched this today. I thought this was a mostly effective and engaging atmospheric thriller/horror. Performances were good and I found the story interesting. 7/10 is my rating.