It Watches is directed and edited by Dave Parker and co-written by Parker and the film’s star, Ivan Djurovic. Parker’s previous work includes writing, directing and editing “Sweet Tooth,” one of the segments in 2015’s horror anthology Tales of Halloween.
The film follows Andre (Ivan Djurovic) as his friend Robert (Rick Irwin) drops him off at a house on a wooded hillside in Southern California. Robert was supposed to house-sit there for a friend, but got a last minute opportunity to shoot a reality TV show. As Robert explains it, the show will rig a house with cameras, volunteers will stay in the house for a night, and the crew will try to scare the hell out of the volunteers while they film their reactions. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, Robert needs someone to take his place for the house sitting gig. Since Andre has partial memory loss as the result of a recent accident and his doctor has ordered rest and relaxation, he agrees to take on the house sitting for Robert.
Right after entering the house, Andre begins recording everything, explaining on camera that his doctor encouraged him to keep a video diary, which might help him regain his memory. The house has an almost maze-like layout and appears to be a three or four floor split level with multiple egresses, balconies, and decks. It borders a wooded ravine and features a nearby pond surrounded by trees. The house also has a very strange decor, described as “creepy” by one character. One of its main features is a variety of mannequins, some with masks, and all of which are covered with white bed sheets. The house is also equipped with several internal and external security cameras.
As Andre gets comfortable, a TV news report tells the story of a woman recently found dead in an automobile trunk, who had been stabbed and tortured over a period of days. The killer was still on the loose and was being sought by police. As his stay progresses, Andre hears odd noises several times but is unable to find anything when he investigates. After a phone call from Rachel (Sanny van Heteren), a friend of Andre’s, she comes over to fix him dinner. When Rachel sees Andre’s video camera, she asks to see some of the video and as she is viewing it, she sees one of the sheet-draped mannequins move. Of course, the two investigate but discover only a mannequin under the sheet.
Before they can get to dinner, there’s a knock at the door, and in walks Guy (James Duval), the neighbor from four doors down, who says he received a phone call from the police warning him there are some escaped convicts roaming the nearby woods and telling him to make sure all doors and windows are secure. Guy says he’s now going down the street passing the warning on to neighbors. From here on out, things get more and more strange and confusing.
The filming format is unclear as well. The filmmakers don’t seem to be able to decide whether or not It Watches is a found footage film or not. After setting up a plausible rationale for having footage from multiple sources, they frequently intermix the handheld or security footage with shots sourced externally to the scene. Found footage fanatics won’t be happy with the inconsistencies.
On the plus side, It Watches looks great, so kudos to cinematographer Will Barratt. With some additional editing provided by Ed Clawson, Parker’s experience as an editor shows in the found footage portions of the film. The scenes are shot and edited in such a way that the viewer can follow the action, which isn’t always the case with found footage. Making sense of the action is a completely different story.
Guy shows up 30 minutes into the 80-minute film. From that point on, good luck figuring out what’s happening. Is it an evil house? Is Andre crazy? Is the killer from the news story there? Have the escaped convicts invaded the house? Are there really any escaped convicts? Did Guy really visit the house? Is Andre being pranked by Robert as part of the reality TV show? Is there someone else hiding in the house? Is there something supernatural going on here? Is this a case of an unreliable narrator? All these scenarios seem possible and impossible simultaneously. I usually love films with WTF plots, but It Watches is so high on the WTF scale, I have no clue what the “It” of the title is, or for that matter, what “It” is watching. So from someone who usually loves movies like It Watches, kudos to anyone who understands the story and its conclusion. Maybe the filmmakers are going for an undecipherable ending. If so, they succeeded wildly, but a lot fewer contradictions and a few more clues would better serve the audience.
Luckily, being scared doesn’t have to make sense and there are plenty of scares in It Watches. Jump scares, the skin-crawling variety, and tension building slow reveals are all present and effectively delivered.
It Watches has only four main cast members and they all do a good job. The film’s success hinges on the portrayal of Andre by Ivan Djurovic, who also played Kifo the Gorilla in Zoombies (2016). Djurovic is in nearly every scene and though his performance seems a little forced or overplayed, that could be the result of an effort to create a character that’s just a little off kilter, leaving the viewer wondering his true nature. Either way, it isn’t off-putting enough to affect the overall estimation of the movie.
The biggest flaw, and a glaring one at that, is the incomprehensibility of the story. There’s one possible interpretation that makes all the contradictions work, but it is decidedly unsatisfying. It Watches is worth your time if you’re in it for the scares, but if you like your stories neatly tied together and clearly understandable, it might not be the best use of your time.
It Watches (2.5 / 5)