Friday, July 29, 2016

They're Watching Review

They're Watching Review
I have written quite a bit about my dissatisfaction with the found footage genre and no matter how good a movie looks in the format, I always remain skeptical. I don't mean to, especially when a film looks good. But after being burned year after year, its kind of hard not to be cynical. All of these movies work in the same vein, one way or the other, so its hard to find much to praise about them. I love it when these movies try to play things outside the box and I figured "They're Watching" maybe one of those out-of-the-box moments.

Is it? Well, it kind of is and it kind of isn't.

How many of you watch those house hunting shows on HGTV? I actually do, not because of my interest. My fiance and her mother love them, so I have always tuned in from time to time whether I wanted to or not. "They're Watching" plays up the HGTV angle. A couple finds a house they want to fix up in a remote part of Moldova. They find it, they love it, they want to remodel it, and the film crew comes back six months later to see what they have done. It feels like a warped episode of "House Hunters: International," and just being familiar with that, made me interested in the movie. It pulled me in and made me laugh at the satire of it all. Then we cut to the film crew, heading into Moldova in order to film the six months later part of the episode. I don't know how many of you watch house hunting shows, but they revolve around a couple looking for a house, someone comes along and shows them properties, the couple decides which one they want the most, then six months later we see their homely happily ever after.

The film crew, consisting of Kris Lemche and David Aplay, spend a lot of down time in rural Moldova. They are late for shoots, they mess around, they accidentally record a private funeral. Hey, they are not the brightest bulbs in the world, this is a found footage movie after all, how bright could they be? I spent most of the movie trying to figure out if that was part of the joke of the movie or by fault of the screenplay. I could never really figure it out. The residents of this Moldovan village are very touchy when it comes to the American film crew, especially around witch legends. The woman who bought the remote house is now a widow and she lives by herself in the woods. The people of the village believe she is a witch, is she? That's the entire mystery the film is based on and I bet you can guess where it lands.

The thing is, most of the humor of the movie land in the movie. Plus, it does some things that I wish actual "scary" found footage movies would actually do, they go balls-to-the-wall. Particularly in the final act. Far too often, we have characters we couldn't care less about running around in the dark with a hand-held camera. In this movie, we still have characters we couldn't care less about, but they are not running around in the dark at nothing. There are some big surprises and some epic craziness in the final act. I found myself yelling, screaming and cheering in those final moments. Sure, the acting is as good as it gets for these movies, but I couldn't help but find the fun in it.

"They're Watching" makes the cardinal sin of most found footage movies, it takes WAY too long to finally get going. There is lots of character development, which isn't really development, just characters going about their lives, killing time until the crazy stuff happens. Its fine, but with these kinds of movies, it ultimately disappoints. Again, I don't know if that is by design, but I think they could have done a better job revamping and remastering the movie. 

Taking a fun direction and pointing it to the found footage genre was an excellent idea. I think there were some good ideas and good ambitions in this movie and there is a lot to appreciate here. Unfortunately, it all runs out of gas a little too early. 


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