Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

“The Watchers”: It was supposed to be a revolution in the world of horror, but the cap came out

  • “The Watchers” is the feature debut of Ishana Shyamalan, the daughter of M. Night Shyamalan. The creator's trademark are shocking plot twists in the finale. His daughter decided to follow in his footsteps
  • The plot of “The Watchers” is based on the novel by Irish writer AM Shine, who also co-wrote the film
  • The main role was played by Dakota Fanning, a one-time child star who appeared in such films as “Alone”, “Man on Fire” and “War of the Worlds”. We recently saw her in the third part of the series “Without Mercy”.

As befits a cinema with its name Shyamalan (the father is a producer, and the daughter wrote and directed the film) it is a film whose summary almost immediately makes you look like a spoiler. Well, unless you've read the book by AM Shine it's based on. Mina (Dakota Fanning) is an American in self-imposed exile. He escapes from his childhood trauma and “looks for himself” in the Irish city of Galway, while working in a pet store. One day her car breaks down in the middle of the forest. Mina doesn't know that this is a place shrouded in an old legend about… Oops, I almost made the first spoiler. Mina's car disappears as she tries to find help.

He must spend the night with his parrot by his side. Before leaving, the bird heard from her, “Just don't die on me,” and now (like a parrot) it keeps repeating ominous words that will soon become Mina's mantra. The girl ends up in a cottage, where she runs after a mysterious gray-haired woman named Madeliene (Olwen Fouere). The cottage is called the playpen and Ciara (Georgina Campbell) and Daniel (Oliver Finnegan) also stay there. The playpen has three massive walls and a large window through which… Oops, the second spoiler would appear. I will only add that it is better to stay in the pen at night, and it is more difficult to get out of the forest than in “Blair Witch Project”.

In last year's “Knocking on the Door”, the director's father showed us the apocalypse seen from the perspective of a small cabin in the forest. Ishana follows a similar path, but stylistically she also looks at his “The Village” (2004), which closed the best period of the director's work, when he was considered a brilliant restorer of intelligent horror with a brilliant finale. Unfortunately, Ishana's film fits into the period when the magical name of Shyamalan in the first years of the 21st century began to be associated with wet caps.

I don't compare “The Watchers” to such disasters as “The Woman in Blue Water” or “1000 Years on Earth”, but there is a lot of wasted potential and creative incompetence here. “The Watchers” could have been a claustrophobic horror film with much better psychological development of each of the characters locked in a pen. It could also be a gore movie. Ishana lacks the vision, the father's sparkle from his first films (the quartet attacked by aliens on the farm in “Signs” bows down) and we are not seriously scared in any way.

Shyamalan is able to create an intriguing atmosphere in the opening, when we learn about a mysterious forest devouring the unfortunate person who entered the forbidden tree line. The director deals with the tension when we don't know what's hiding behind the door of the playpen where “something” is knocking, but the tension is enough for a moment. The young director too often spins around her own axis, unable to shock the viewer with either brutality or narrative perversity.

Ultimately, “The Watchers” is suspended between mild horror films for teenagers and folkloric stories, which are experiencing a renaissance not only in the cinema of Robert Eggers. The director and screenwriter of this, after all, original film, also signals her willingness to play with the meta level and social references (locked at home, they watch a stupid reality show like “Love Island” on DVD over and over again), but she loses her mind, rushing to the finale, where can put the stamp of the Shyamalan family by asking: did I surprise you, like dad?

She didn't surprise, although in the last act she shows that with more discipline and refinement of her directorial hand, she can make a horror film that will show that she inherited her sixth sense for scaring from her father.


“The Watchers”dir. Ishan Shyamalan, USA 2024, distribution: Warner Bros. Entertainment Polska, cinema premiere: June 7, 2024