They’re Watching, 2016.
Directed by Jay Lander and Micah Wright.
Starring David Alpay, Cristian Balint, Brigid Brannagh, Dimitri Diatchenko, Mia Faith, Carrie Genzel and Kris Lemche.
An American TV crew are sent to a small Moldovan village to record a reality home improvement show, but they soon come into conflict with the locals, and their folkloric beliefs of witchcraft.
This found footage horror-comedy begins with a fictionalised reality TV home redevelopment/relocation programme. Californian artist and pottery enthusiast Becky Westlake (Brigid Brannagh) and her spouse Goran Potsnik (Cristian Balint), a shallow soccer player, are looking for a fixer-upper property on the outskirts of a Moldovan village. Local smooth talking salesman Vladimir Filat (Dimitri Diatchenko) takes them around this “potential” country home; an abandoned, half-burned, derelict building. Filat’s unabashed optimism, and possible naiveté, goes to work to smooth out any issues with the house. So whenever Goran points out the obvious, Filat’s excuses them away, and offers daft reasons for their faults. Such is his charm, he can even convince you that being the only broker in Moldova does indeed equate to being the best broker in Moldova. The faux-reality TV aesthetics, the oft-kilter comedy, and the broad character types set’s up the film’s farcical nature.
It then cuts to six months later where the American camera crew are returning to see what Becky has done with the place. Two experienced cameramen Greg (David Alpay) and Alex (Kris Lemche), who were at the original shoot, are joined by the inexperienced, and the company owners niece, Sarah (Mia Faith) – an act of nepotism that riles up the smart-ass Alex. In introducing us to these characters, who will indeed serve as the film’s protagonists, the film changes its tone; it becomes significantly more clichéd in the horror tropes, and distinctly more dramatic. This jarring tonal shift, conveyed wholly po-faced, will disappoint those enjoying that opening sequence.
Alex insults the locals, the handsome everyman Greg is hiding a dark secret, and Sarah acts as the pretty blonde: we’re familiar with these character-types from prior horror movies. With no sense of irony, subversion, or even charm, one has to wonder why the film decides to rest on tired horror motifs. Further, Greg’s past is superfluous for it is sparsely brought up. Whenever it is, the films pacing slows down. In short, a needless subplot that adds nothing and consequently trails off to nowhere.
After meeting their f-bomb dropping executive Kate (Carrie Genzel) at the hotel, they spend their first day walking around town, taking pictures, and recording their mishaps. I say mishaps; a more apt summary would be behaving like obnoxious, self-entitled cosmopolitan Americans as seen in every European-horror-trip film (think Hostel, but condensed into one guy – and that guy being Alex). The sole purpose of these moments is to set up this ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ tension that will serve as the main narrative trajectory. One therefore has to ask, is it necessary?
Despite all this the film is a fun, harmless, little romp that will delight horror aficionados. In keeping overtop caricatures like Kate and Vladimir within the periphery the film keeps its farcical nature firmly on its sleeve. The shame comes from our protagonists exerting the familiar horror characteristics, and walking through situations taken from lesser horror films.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★