Director – Jay Lender, Micah Wright
Cast – Brigid Brannagh, David Alpay, Kris Lemche, Carrie Genzel, Mia Faith, Dimitri Diatchenko, Cristian Balint
Release Year – 2016
Reviewed by John of the Dead
They’re Watching garnered some decent reviews from horror fans overall, so I figured I would give this a watch and satisfy my occasional craving for found-footage flicks (the last was Blair Witch). The directorial debut for longtime animators Jay Lender and Micah Wright, whose work includes Spongebob Squarepants, Hey Arnold, and The Angry Beavers, I liked this film more than I thought I would. Is it good? I would not say that. It comes with a boatload of development that eventually explodes into insanity during the final X amount of minutes. Is it worth the wait? Not really, but it’s at least moderately entertaining.
The crew of home improvement show “Home Hunter’s Global” head to the small eastern European village in Moldova, where they plan to film a follow-up segment about an American homeowner who planned to renovate a decrepit home into an artist’s sanctuary. The town has a troubled past, and its superstitions leave the crew and its subject faced with violence.
This story kicks off with a glimpse of a foreshadowed scene showing the deaths of some lead characters, so there’s that. After this things take off like most other found footage flicks. Our characters are camera operators Greg (David Alpay), Alex (Kris Lemche; Ginger Snaps), their assistant Sarah (Mia Faith), their bitchy producer Kate (Carrie Genzel), and Becky (Brigid Brannagh), the person remodeling the home. Their liason for the trip is a local man named Vladimir. The story focuses mostly on Greg, Alex, and Sarah. They have time to spare during their stay in the fictional town of Pavlovka (no relation to Pavlov’s dogs), so they spend a day filming B-roll footage. Their ventures around the town teach us a lot. These townsfolk are superstitious and take the subject of witches very seriously.
A mere 100 years ago the town burned a witch who lived on the outskirts. They associated her solitude and lack of church attendance with the death of the town’s livestock, and that lead the townsfolk to take drastic measures to ensure their prosperity. The three manage to inadvertently use their ignorance to tick off the locals, and things turn for the worst when the locals associate them with Becky. Becky is unfortunate enough to live on the edge of town, lack children, and not attend church, so the locals are already suspicious of her. The horror grows insidiously throughout the bulk of the film, teasing here and there about the locals attacking the film crew. For the most part, though, nothing happens until the third act. This tends to be the case with a lot of found-footage flicks, so I was not too surprised. Most times there are at least a few deaths during the first two acts, but literally nothing horrific happens for 66% of this flick. Surprisingly, I was not too bothered by this. The writers managed to keep me engaged with the antics going on between our leads and Kris Lemche delivers a solid performance as Alex. There are also quite a few twists and turns that play into whether or not Becky could really be a witch and whether the town is out to get the film crew. When things do kick into gear they do so with profound results. The final sequences are bombarded with death and gore in an all-out onslaught between the locals and our protagonists.
The direction from the two first-timers is fair, and they rely on Lemche’s execution of Alex to keep the viewers engaged. Their experience in art leads to some crazy effects during the film’s tremendous final sequences, but I don’t see gorehounds too enthused by it. We do see a good amount of gore, but its CGI delivery keeps it from hitting as hard as it could.
Overall, They’re Watching is an OK found footage flick saved by a climax that tries to make up for the lack of horror making up the bulk of the film.