'The Watcher' Review: Don't Go Home Alone
For my first assignment for Kulture Shocked's second annual Horrotober, I was given a film that our Editor-in-Chief has been a huge fan of. The Watcher stars James Spader as Detective Campbell, Marisa Tomei as Polly, and Keanu Reeves as David Griffin. Reeves agreed to do the film when it was a low budget bit part, but because he was connected to it, the producers managed to attract more money and bigger stars, so they enlarged his role to be the focus of the piece. Unfortunately Keanu was paid his first agreed upon salary, while the other talent were payed a million dollar each. The cast is rounded out by Ernie Hudson, Chris Ellis, and Robert Cicchini in extremely minor roles.
When Campbell fails to catch serial killer David Griffin, Campbell moves to a new city and leaves the force, but Griffin is a twisted man who follows the detective and starts sending him pictures of his recent victims in the mail. It's twist on the standard serial killer/detective story, in that the detective is already broken, and the killer's jibes are simply adding insult to injury.
There are pluses and minuses to the film. Campbell and his discussions with his psychiatrist are all compelling glimpses in to the mind of a beaten and broken federal agent. His personality is that of Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs if Hannibal escaping had sent her in to a downward spiral of self medication and depression. Reeves' taunting and arrogant murderer is also an interesting character, the standard psychopath with a twist, so driven by his love of the cat and mouse game that he follows his opponent across the country to keep it going. There are also some shots that are framed exceptionally well. Parts of the sound design are perfectly put together as well, with growling, animalistic noises overshadowing the ambient noises of the murder scenes.
However, there are certainly aspects of the film that lack the same quality. The shots from the perspective of Griffin with a hand held camera and a hard to place filter choice are unfocused enough to draw the viewer out of the scene. Tense moments are highlighted by sending the entire shot in to a negative color balance, which are a little to blatant for my tastes. There are also bad choices in the sound design, mostly stemming from some of the less well chosen songs on the soundtrack.
All things considered, the movie is a good enough film to be enjoyed, but it's detractors keep it from being something truly stellar. Check it out if you're in the mood for a murder movie you probably haven't seen, starring talent you love. Skip it if you're not a fan of the genre already, considering that its visuals aren't the most compelling or subtle in their style. The ending also isn't the best put together piece of cinema I've ever seen, but because the performances were so good, I'm willing to overlook it.
Final Say: Watch It