An American Renovation and Home Improvement show heads to a remote Eastern European village to film the follow-up episode for a past contestant who purchased a dilapidated fixer-up home in the wilderness outside of the remote village. Once they arrive in town, they begin to notice that all the local townsfolk aren't very welcoming of the new guests. Are the crew in danger or is there something much darker hiding in the wilderness?
Being an avid traveller and someone who has a severe case of wanderlust, I'm always drawn to horror films that feature plots about the darker side of travelling. Recently, I did four months of travelling and backpacking through Eastern Europe which ended in me being attacked, robbed, and having my passport, wallet, and phone stolen. It's a situation that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. It's a really frightening thing to be in a foreign country and not understanding the language and no one believing you. I guess when it happens, you sympathise with the characters in horror movies because you've been through it.
So when horror movies feature people in situations where they suddenly get lost in a foreign land and end up on the chopping block, I always seem to be incredibly drawn to them. While my case was never that extreme, I still really enjoy horror movies of travel gone awry. Some of the movies I love are Eli Roth's Hostel and Hostel Part II, Turistas, Wolf Creek, The Ruins, The Hills Have Eyes, American Werewolf In London, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They all touch on the above subject, and they all do it rather well.
When it comes to They're Watching, I was immediately drawn to the movie being set in Eastern Europe. I went in knowing that this movie was more a horror comedy so it wouldn't be as dark as the movies that I had mentioned previously. I also knew that it features Americans being stuck in some 'lost in translation' type of scenario. Lastly, I was excited to see how the home improvement found footage aspect would play out, even if I believe that found footage is now saturating the horror genre. I was hoping that this would add some new element to it.
I found myself enjoying They're Watching for the first hour of the film. The first hour basically builds up all the characters, and we get to know the crew of this American Home Improvement TV Series. The movie actually makes you care about most of the characters before they're all killed off in incredibly grisly fashion. As with every one of these horror films, we do have one or two characters who are written as disposable, but the movie for the most part actually builds up the characters which I found as a positive in this film.
The first hour doesn't contain many scares or suspense at all. It's pretty much free of both. Either do the last thirty minutes of the film if I'm brutally honest. The first hour does, however, deliver a few of the huge do's and don'ts when it comes to travelling and paying respect to the different cultures and countries. It's probably the only time during these scenes that the movie makes any type of blip on the tension scale. I've been in those situations before and felt the feelings of not being sure if you've done something to disrespect the culture.
Once the movie starts killing off the entire crew, the film just descends into one of the most hilariously lousy horror movie finals that I've seen in quite some time. If the film was trying to take itself seriously towards the end, it fails miserably. The movie's final showdown is so over the top and filled with such awful visuals that it ultimately takes you out of the film. It's just so laughable and cheesy that it sort of ruins the rest of the film. The somewhat predictable reveal of the big bad is also rather unimpressive.
Even with the awful final massacre, I have to say that I liked the cinematography in this found footage movie. There are lots of scenes of gorgeous old architecture, we have a lot of shots of the village and it sort of made me miss Eastern Europe while I watching the film. I really wanted to travel again after sitting through it. The movie also gets that aspect of the film right. It's a beautiful looking movie.
Lastly, The acting in They're Watching is above average. I think that the entire cast give it a god ol' go of things. Kris Lemche as our comedic relief is easily the standout of the movie. Brigid Brannagh is also excellent in her role. She looks like she gets to have the most fun with her role, and you'll see why and Carrie Genzel as our studio executive and nasty businesswoman bitch is the most disposable but god she can play a nasty, hateful bitch really well.
DEATH TOLL: 25
BLOOD AND GORE:
- An axe to the skull.
- A dog is shot after attacking someone.
- Eyes removed and a live frog stuffed in their mouth.
- Someone is nailed to a barn.
- A fire poker through the arm.
- People explode.
- Someone is turned into frogs. Frogs eat another person.
- A person is hit with a tree.
- A rotting corpse.
- People are impaled and burnt alive.
- People are ripped into pieces.
- Someone's head explodes.
- A person is torn in half.
- Someone has their head bashed in.
They're Watching has a enjoyable first hour but slowly descends into one of the most hilariously bad finals I've seen in a long time. Some horribly cheesy visuals and over the top violence do the rest of the movie a disservice. The film gains some points for the above average acting and some substantial character development during the first hour and some rather gorgeous cinematography of Eastern Europe. I think had this played things more seriously and went practical with the gore and blood effects, we may have had a different outcome.