Gruesome Reviews

“They’re Watching” (2016): Home Improvement Hell

You’d think that any movie (let alone a horror movie) that proudly announces it’s from the writers of “Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2” and “Spongebob Squarepants” is gonna be something extremely strange and different. Well, writer/directors Jay Lender (Spongebob Squarepants) and Micah Wright (Call Of Duty II) have put their heads together and put together They’re Watching, a found footage horror/comedy that uses a reality television show to springboard its characters into a hellish situation while filming in a foreign country.

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As the film opens, the host and staff of House Hunters Global find themselves in the Republic of Moldova filming their latest episode. The show is one where people look to buy homes in other countries, mostly fixer uppers. After a home is sold, the crew comes back six months later to check on the progress of their guests and their newly purchased homes with their host, Kate Banks (Carrie Genzel). On the latest episode, Kate & company return to Moldova to check in on the progress of Becky (Brigid Brannagh) & her husband Goran (Cristian Balint) who bought the “Worst house in Moldova” on their previous appearance. Kate brings along her cameramen Alex (Kris Lemche) and Greg (David Alpay) to record the proceedings. Also tagging along is production assistant Sarah (Mia Faith) to learn the business as she does all of the menial jobs. But the town of Pavloka isn’t as hospitable to the foreigners this time around. As a matter of fact, they’re downright hostile to them. Is it because they’re tired of these strangers tooling around town, filming them at all hours of the day? Or is it because they’re trying to hide something? It’s the nature of what’s happening in the town that has its inhabitants on edge. And after Kate and her crew arrive at Becky’s newly renovated home, you’ll come to believe that something is really wrong in Pavloka, because Becky has turned what was the crappiest hovel in Europe and turned it into the quaintest cottage you’ve ever seen – in only six months! But the townsfolk stay far away from her home, and she claims to have no idea why.

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But Becky knows exactly why the town is so fearful of her, and it’s up to Kate and the others to discover what’s going on before it’s too late.

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If you’re at all familiar with cable channels like The Travel Channel and its ilk, then you’ll recognize the faux House Hunters Global show immediately. Most of the film was filmed in Romania, and the production takes time to take advantage of the gorgeous European scenery as often as possible. The performances are all quite good here, with Brannagh standing out as the mysterious Becky. Dimitri Diatchenko also deserves special mention as Vladimir, the group’s liason/real estate broker. But all the characters have a few moments to shine, and the genial, sometimes genuinely funny dialog the script provides helps to make all characters sound honest. They’re Watching does a really nice job of setting up its premise, and delivers dollops of drama and laughs in equal portions. The found footage aspect of it works very well since it’s built around the idea of a film crew recording a cable television show, and since we’re talking about professional cameramen here, there’s very little of that annoying Shaky Cam footage that always ends up nauseating some viewers.

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But that’s where the problems with They’re Watching begin. Since it’s being billed as a horror comedy, you’d expect to see some bona fide horror as the film progresses, wouldn’t you? Well think again, because the film doesn’t feature many scares for a lot of its running time, not even the standard jump scare you’d expect. It’s content to follow the characters along as their situation becomes more & more dire. This is definitely going to disappoint a lot of you expecting something more from the proceedings. Personally, I found the characters engaging enough to warrant investing 75 minutes of my time watching them dig themselves an ever deepening hole. The good news is that minutes 75-90 finally bust loose and deliver some of the most mindlessly unexpected carnage I’ve seen in a film this year. I’m serious when I say that the film just all of a sudden goes into overdrive and becomes a fucking bloodbath of epic proportions, quite reminiscent of the way last year’s We Are Still Here suddenly kicked into Fulci-ville for its finale. Sadly, the CGI carnage on display in They’re Watching isn’t of the highest quality, but it does the job overall.

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Writer/Directors Lender and Wright both have a ton of experience producing animated children’s fare, but this is their first full length feature film production and they’ve done a decent job with the script, despite their reticence to bring on the grue till the finale. They both show a sure hand in dealing with actors, and They’re Watching is a pretty good first film for them both. Although I really wish they’d have brought in some scares earlier in the film, the story is interesting enough as it stands, and the finale is one for the ages. They’re Watching is a good little film that’ll satisfy anyone looking for something to watch on a slow Friday night. Just don’t lose your mind waiting for the scares to arrive, the finale nearly makes up for it.

They’re Watching 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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The Black Saint
Santos Ellin Jr (AKA The Black Saint) has been watching films of dubious quality since time began, he has also watched a few horror films along the way as well. He has been writing for Horrornews.net for the last four years and was promoted to the position of Lead Theatrical Reviewer/Interviewer/PR last year. He makes so much money doing this that he needs do nothing else with his life but he was also asked to be a co-host of the Horror News Radio podcast last year as well. It’s been said (by a family member) that he is indeed the glue that holds the podcast together although his co-hosts might not agree. He thinks they are all jealous of him anyway.
The Black Saint
Santos Ellin Jr (AKA The Black Saint) has been watching films of dubious quality since time began, he has also watched a few horror films along the way as well. He has been writing for Horrornews.net for the last four years and was promoted to the position of Lead Theatrical Reviewer/Interviewer/PR last year. He makes so much money doing this that he needs do nothing else with his life but he was also asked to be a co-host of the Horror News Radio podcast last year as well. It’s been said (by a family member) that he is indeed the glue that holds the podcast together although his co-hosts might not agree. He thinks they are all jealous of him anyway.