Movie Reviews

The Watchers Review: The Shyamalan Familys Love Of A Twist Ending Ruins A Fascinating Horror

Summary

  • The Watchers
    ‘ twist ending ruins the entire film’s flow and logic.
  • The story, despite its intriguing elements, is inconsistent and disappointing.
  • The solid performances of the ensemble cast cannot save the film from its flaws.



Following in her father M. Night Shyamalan’s footsteps, Ishana Night Shyamalan makes her directorial debut with The Watchers, a horror film that is intriguing at points, wildly inconsistent at others. One thing’s for sure, and that’s the Shyamalans’ love of a twist ending unravels everything for The Watchers. Rather than be a fascinating exploration of changeling mythology and lore, the younger Shyamalan, who also wrote the script, held onto the most crucial piece of information until the very end, warping all that came before.


The last 15 minutes completely lost me, and blew a larger hole in the already shaky quality of the film’s story. It made me question everything, but not in a good way. There is no rationale for The Watchers’ ending; it leads us down a path where a reveal is imminent, but switches gears, as though afraid we’d come too close to something that made a bit more sense. The Watchers is deeply flawed, and its flaws are behind its downfall. It seems Shyamalan has picked up some of her father’s worst filmmaking tendencies, and it completely derails the film.


The Watchers’ Biggest Twist Is Its Downfall

And the film’s inconsistencies make it stand out all the more


The Watchers’ story is simple. Mina (Dakota Fanning), who lost her mother 15 years before, is tasked with transferring a bird to Belfast. She gets lost in an unmapped Irish forest on the way and meets Madeline (Olwen Fouéré), Ciara (Georgina Campbell), and Daniel (Oliver Finnegan), who have been trapped there for a while. Madeline explains to Mina about the Watchers, supernatural creatures who watch them from sunset to sunrise, and the rules for staying alive. It’s easy to get lost in the story at first, with its unnerving, sprawling forest and creatures who are glimpsed only in the periphery.

The twist ending gives everything away, though, forcing us to think about the film’s issues, plot contrivances, and wobbly character arcs — unlikely the director’s intent.


Based on the book by A.M. Shine, The Watchers banks on the eeriness of the creatures, their unnaturally long figures, and their thirst for mimicking humans, studying them as though they’re an experiment they’re fascinated by. They’re quick to anger, and I was content to let Shyamalan’s narrative take me wherever it chose to go. Unfortunately, the outcome woke me up to the film’s multitude of problems, the first of which being its logic. There isn’t much of it, but it’s not too obvious at first, skating by on the unknown and the characters’ willingness to fight however they can.

The twist ending gives everything away, though, forcing us to think about the film’s issues, plot contrivances, and wobbly character arcs — unlikely the director’s intent. The Watchers is a supernatural horror that unevenly builds out its lore, but doesn’t fully believe in its strength as the story’s foundation. Information meant to flesh out the narrative is often too easily handed out, and Shyamalan, for some unknown reason, waits until the movie is nearly over to deliver a few more tidbits that would have been better laid out earlier in the film.


This supernatural horror doesn’t make much sense. Shyamalan slowly follows one of the characters, and I was ready to embrace the reveal because, for this person, it would have at least tracked. And I’d be interested in reading the book because the twist in the film doesn’t have legs to stand on; it’s so weak and laughable. Perhaps Shyamalan doesn’t trust her audience enough, but the ending is far less horrific and more gimmicky than anything. The Watchers had potential, too. Shyamalan is a competent director who’s good at establishing tone, but the writing cuts too many corners.


The Watchers’ Ensemble Cast Is Its Biggest Strength

But even they can’t save the film from its worst problems

Even when I started pondering about some of the gaping holes in the story, the strength of the cast’s performances kept me watching. Fanning et al are clearly invested in their characters, and they do a fantastic job of selling their fears and traumas to us. We want them to make it out of the forest alive. When my mind began questioning them, Fouéré’s intensity lured me back in. When Campbell’s Ciara cried out for her husband, I felt her pain. Their performances take The Watchers more seriously than I ever could, saving the film from being entirely unwatchable.


Considering the characters hold the film together, their backstories are paper thin. Professor Kilmartin (John Lynch), a minor character, is the only one whose presence in the forest has some heft. We understand why Mina is drawn into the forest, but her guilt is limiting, and her love of pretending to be someone else even more so. And yet, the cast puts in the work to make their characters feel like fully realized people despite the restrictions. I can’t recommend The Watchers, but at least the actors will keep you somewhat invested in the story — up to a point, anyway.

The Watchers is a strange film. It has disconcerting moments, but it never rises above its premise. The story itself is half-formed at best, and the ending is so outlandish that I was stunned by how badly it’s executed. Somewhere in the supernatural horror is a film that’s worth its salt. Sadly, The Watchers is not even worth the price of a theater ticket.


The-Watchers-AM-Shine

Based on A.M. Shine’s novel, The Watchers follows Mina (Dakota Fanning), a twenty-eight-year-old artist stranded in the middle of a forest in Ireland. Her momentary relief when she finds shelter is shattered when she discovers other strangers in the same predicament – but they’re stalked each night by unseen creatures.

Pros

  • The Watchers’ cast does most of the heavy lifting
  • Ishana Night Shyamalan is a competent director
Cons

  • The film’s final twist completely unravels the film
  • The story has a ton of inconsistencies and contrivances
  • There’s a general lack of tension
  • Many aspects of the plot don’t make much sense within the film’s framework

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