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Review: “The Watchers”

Ishana Night Shyamalan’s directorial debut is mediocre, but it has its scary moments.
Image by Ava Weinreis
“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.

Ishana Night Shyamalan, daughter of famous director M. Night Shyamalan, has followed in the footsteps of “The Sixth Sense” filmmaker by making a horror film with a plot twist, “The Watchers,” released on June 7.

However, based on her directorial debut, it is obvious that Shyamalan still has much room for improvement as a filmmaker. “The Watchers” stars a cast of forgettable characters and drags on too long, despite being less than 2 hours in length.

“The Watchers” is adapted from the 2022 novel of the same name by A.M. Shine. The film focuses on a young woman named Mina, played by Dakota Fanning, who finds herself trapped in a bunker with a few survivors in the middle of an Irish forest filled with terrifying nocturnal beasts. 

The issues with the film start with its premise. It has a plot structure that is cliche at this point: a few strangers are trapped together and have to overcome powerful forces to escape.

Not only is the plot uninteresting, but most of the characters are pretty boring too. While Fanning gives the best performance in the film as the starring role, the other performances by the main cast feel unnatural and rehearsed, likely a symptom of a film having an inexperienced director.

Once Fanning’s character enters the bunker, Madeline, the elder of the group played by Olwen Fouéré, delivers clunky dialogue that quickly shoe-horns into exposition explaining what the forest beasts are and how the characters ended up trapped there. Her delivery feels unnatural and she talks so fast that it feels as if you are watching the movie at twice the speed. While much of the movie could have been shortened, the exposition is one of the areas in which the filmmakers should not have cut corners.

“The Watchers” does have its frightening moments, but unfortunately they are few and far between. 

While much of the film is boring and slow, once the creatures are revealed, the visual effects and sound design work wonders to make for a truly chilling moment, and this feeling is replicated a few times thereafter. Every time we get a clear view of these creatures, they are pretty frightening, and at the end of the day that is the bare minimum requirement for a passable horror movie. But that’s all this movie is: passable. 

While Shyamalan seemingly tries to replicate pieces of her father’s classic films with the storytelling style, she should have tried to carve a unique path instead, as “The Watchers” just feels like an M. Night Shyamalan knock-off. It contains a classic Shyamalan-style twist but has some visual resemblances to his 2004 film “The Village,” particularly with the imagery of a creepy forest and mysterious creatures.

“The Watchers” feels like a rough draft. It has compelling ideas in a sea of cliches and dull writing. It is a horror movie that is, for the most part, forgettable. 

Shyamalan could very well go on to make great films like her father has, but based on “The Watchers,” she still has a ways to go.

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  • Irvin Alexander Romero
    Jul 9, 2024 at 10:48 pm

    Shamalyan good luck in your journey I hope wish the best for you good day.

  • MMH
    Jun 20, 2024 at 4:23 pm

    “…daughter of famous director M. Night Shyamalan…”
    “…Shyamalan seemingly tries to replicate pieces of her father’s classic films…”
    “…feels like an M. Night Shyamalan knock-off.”
    “…Shyamalan could very well go on to make great films like her father has…”

    Would whether or not the director is the child of a famous director be featured as prominently in this article if said child identified as male?
    The whole “daughter ripping off father” theme in art is trite. Please do better.