Directed by: Ryan Rothmaier
Cast: Erin Cahill, Edi Gathegi, Denise Crosby
Ryan Rothmaier’s feature length debut may leave a few fans surprised. When you scan the film’s synopsis you’re likely to be led to believe that The Watcher is going to be little more than another haunted house tale. And, while Rothmaier works hard to trick us into thinking we’re going to get exactly what we expect, a few plot twists begin to emerge and by the time the third act is in motion, we’re realizing that we were wrong all along: The Watcher is not just a haunted house story, it’s far more elaborate than that, and the supernatural elements of the movie may not be all that supernatural.
I’m not going to leap into a detailed breakdown and cover every beat of the film – I’ll kill the enjoyment if I choose that path. Instead, I’m going to let that introductory paragraph get your wheels spinning, wondering what the hell this movie is if it isn’t a haunted house story.
Outside of a small handful of iffy vocal exchanges the story is generally well-written. Each character is clearly defined and – better yet – the bulk of them are likeable characters. Edi Gathegi makes for a fine lead. He’s attentive to his wife’s needs, and he’s listening to her complaints, but he tries to rationalize all the odd occurrences taking place in their new home. That said, he’s not that D-bag character who flat out dismisses his wife’s claims, and when the call to action comes, he answers with nobility. Gathegi has a strong character to work with and he really makes that character shine. The very same can be said of Erin Cahill, who portrays the stressed wife who needs to find some peace before she compltely flips her lid. All in all, they’re a great on-screen couple and I’ll be happy to tune into future projects from both; quality performers, flat out.
There are a few supporting characters that are also worthy of big praise. Denise Crosby (who you’ll recognize from Pet Sematary) does a fine job as the nutty lady of the neighborhood and Riley Baron impresses as her handicapped son.
You can’t lose with this ensemble.
There are some extremely haunting moments that involve a Raven like creature and an unsettling older Asian fellow. Both presences are important in moving the story forward, but they also open up the potential conflict, again, forcing viewers to wonder what the hell is happening in this house and why all of these separate entities are plaguing this young couple.
A few convoluted moments in the film may leave you briefly scratching your head, but the plot holes we encounter here aren’t detrimental to the production as a whole; they’re small enough problems to dismiss without feeling disgruntled by lazy filmmaking. For a first-time feature length filmmaker, that’s pretty damn impressive.
The Watcher isn’t the best film of the year, but it is one of the bigger surprises. I headed into this viewing session with very controlled expectations. I didn’t expect an Oscar winner and I didn’t expect a bomb. That said, I certainly didn’t anticipate a picture quite so spirited. This may be a low budget indie flick but it’s a pretty damn good one.
Ryan Rothmaier has a bright future in this business, and he’s got another supporter to add to his cache of believers.