'The Watchers' review: Auspicious debut for M. Night Shyamalan's daughter 2
Dakota Fanning in 'The Watchers.' 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Culture

'The Watchers' review: Auspicious debut for M. Night Shyamalan's daughter

This is the first feature film written and directed by 24-year old filmmaker Ishana Night Shyamalan.
Fred Hawson | Jun 07 2024

Mina (Dakota Fanning) was an artist who worked at a pet store. One day, she was asked by her boss to bring an exotic yellow parrot to a certain place in the Irish countryside. The GPS led her into a densely forested area until the internet signal just died. When she was driving through a dirt road in a thick forest, her car suddenly broke down. When she came back after looking for help, her car had disappeared.

As the darkness was engulfing the forest, Mina suddenly saw a woman holding a door open, calling her to come on in fast. Inside, she met Madeline (Olwen Fouéré), Ciara (Georgina Campbell) and Daniel (Oliver Finnegan). Madeline instructed Mina to look at a mirrored wall of this concrete bunker, which she called "The Coop." There were creatures called "Watchers" outside who wanted to see them.

This is the first feature film written and directed by 24-year old filmmaker Ishana Night Shyamalan. Her surname is immediately familiar -- she is the daughter of noted director of horror films, M. Night Shyamalan, who is one of the producers. She had worked in a couple of her father's recent films, as well as a horror TV series he created called "Servant." Her script is based on a 2021 novel of the same title written by Irish writer A.M. Shine.

Ms. Night Shyamalan and her cinematographer Eli Arenson made the most of the creepy forest setting, with the dark shadows cast by the thick foliage of the tall trees. The air in the forest was known to cause fleeting visions, also adding to the eerie atmosphere. When we finally see the Watchers, we only see them from afar with their tall elongated forms stretching forth from the forest floor. It was wise that we never saw them close up in their faces.  

I liked the subtle foreshadowing clues being introduced from the beginning that were about mimicry and doubles. Mina had a twin sister, and she liked doing dress-up, pretending to be someone else on her nights out. The parrot Darwin can mimic words he heard, the most ominous soundbyte being "try not to die." The one-way mirror occupying one entire wall of the bunker made the indoor scenes look like there were two of everything.

I liked the Irish folklore woven into the story. It was good to see Dakota Fanning back in the acting form we knew her for. I like the surprise uncredited actor who played the Professor who built the bunker. Just when you thought the Coop scenes had already peaked so well, there were 30 minutes more awkwardly appended after that. These scenes felt like a rather slow and anti-climactic epilogue. The twist reveal was good, but that part just took too long.

 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."