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Brigid Brannagh as Becky, Kris Lemche as Alex and David Alpay as Greg (from left to right) | ‘They’re Watching’ (2016).

‘They’re Watching’ is a fresh new twist on modern reality television, littered with tribute to the forefathers of horror, and with it bringing something unique to the long-stagnant genre.

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When ‘Home Hunters Global’ visits an underdeveloped village in the Republic of Moldova, the naive young television crew ignorantly fears the eastern European village’s lacking amenities to be the worst of their troubles. But when the curious crew is caught filming an eerie ritual, their situation takes a turn for the deadly as the superstitious villagers discontent towards these overly curious outsiders starts to boil over. Penned and directed by writers and animators Micah Wright and Jay Lender, ‘They’re Watching,’ while not perfect, pays tribute to the patron saints of horror while carving out its own unique niche within the genre.

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David Alpay as Greg and Kris Lemche as Alex (from left to right) | ‘They’re Watching’ (2016).

Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Etc.) – 3

It’s no surprise that noted graphic novelists and animators such as Micah Wright and Jay Lender, with a collective resume ranging from work on ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops II’ to ‘Sponge Bob Square Pants,’ would concoct such a cartoonish yet oddly grounded horror scenario. Cinematically speaking, the film may have its imperfections in pacing and depth, but it still champions audience attention, gives us steady chuckles and ultimately pays off BIG-time with its spectacle of a finale. Wright and Lender did well to make the film very self-aware, with it never taking itself too seriously. Instead the story often plays off of the indosyncaies of the individual characters, with those characters traits (or flaws) initiating an organic plot progression. Conceptually ‘They’re Watching’ is a fun way to present a classic horror model, giving the audience an immediate sense of relatability with its spot on take (read “Spoof”) on reality tv programing. Given the shoe-string budget ‘They’re Watching’ was built upon, I would say that it is a valiant debut for Wright and Lender in the American niche horror market.

 


Click HERE to read FilmFad’s exclusive interview with ‘They’re Watching’ co-writers and co-directors Micah Wright and Jay Lender.


 

When it comes to the cast, the ensemble was surprisingly detailed and well-enough knit together to sell the concept. Lender and Wright seemingly put in the groundwork of really giving each character their own unique persona, and the respective actors did well to take it and run with it. The most fascinating character in the film is hands down Moldova’s best, and only, real estate agent named Vladimir, played by Dimitri Diatchenko. Valdimir’s disco-flavored apparel and cringe-inducing sales pitches bring a bulk of the color and comic relief to the film. Then there’s Alex, played by Kris Lemche, the arrogant and ostentatious driver and crew-member. Perhaps it can be attributed to Lemche’s natural on-screen charisma, but Alex is one of the most complete feeling characters in the film. Of course the story’s humor is offset by the rampaging Kate, played by Carrie Genzel, the  uncongenial ‘Home Hunters Global’ host who takes extreme joy in condescending to and demeaning her subordinates.

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Kris Lemche as Alex and Dimitri Diatchenko as Valdimir (from left to right) | ‘They’re Watching’ (2016).

Entertainment Value – 3

Again, the film is like a slow burning wick to a spectacular firework. It takes some time for the story to fall into place, but the moments of whimsy and stress in between do well to capture attention. Once the film does reach its climax, it really blasts off into a fantastic realm which is totally unexpected. Personally, the pacing of the film did not bother me at all, I was able to derive entertainment from the character’s experience through the streets of the technologically repressed village. For fans of horror films from the 80s to early 90s, this will likely satiate your cinematic appetite. ‘They’re Watching’ obeys a rule of subtlety, until it doesn’t. And that seems to work. There is also a particularly cool impromptu musical jam that takes place in a village bar. But, while the jam is different and entertaining, it does not really add much to the story.

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Brigid Brannagh as Becky | ‘They’re Watching’ (2016).

Re-Watchability – 2.5

Although I am not averse to another viewing, much of the cinematic value lies in the build-up towards an unexpected finale. Once that secret is revealed, I feel the film is less entrancing the second time around.

 

  • Cinematics
  • Entertainment Value
  • Rewatchability

Summary

'They're Watching,' while not perfect, pays tribute to the patron saints of horror while carving out its own unique niche within the genre. The film is like a slow burning wick to a spectacular firework. It takes some time for the story to fall into place, but the moments of whimsy and stress in between do well to capture attention. Great the first time around, but once the twist is revealed, little is left to prompt another viewing.

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