“…but the folks are much nicer now!”
Story: House Hunters International – or in this film’s case, a knock-off version to please their attorneys – helps big city gal Becky (Brigid Brannagh from Kindred: The Embraced!) find a place in the country. That country being Moldova. She buys a place that looks 1 step away from being reclaimed by the wilderness, and the show promises to come back to check on her in 6 months. Cue update; the camera and production crew of 3 (plus the diva-y show host) come back and see her amazingly refinished home. But the townspeople don’t seem friendly. If those pickaxes meany anything. Is it too late to head to Paris instead?
Scares: Few. This is a fun rather than frightning jaunt. But there are several scenes that deliver some high-quality creepy.
Splat factor: Um…sorta? SyFy Channel-level special effects give what could be a totally bloodbath a cheesy feel. Which is fine if you like cheese. (I do.)
Closing scene “shocker”?: Nay. But there is a twist around the start of the climactic end scene. Sharp(ish) eyes could spot this one coming, but it’s still fun.
Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul)?: Original, though this film does steal from its betters.
Trick or Treat?: Not bad, but not particularly scary. They’re Watching feels like a neighborhood haunted house. It loves what it’s doing, and you get creeped out a time or two, but you definitely know what’s going on.
Do the outsiders, who manage to do everything in their power to alienate and piss off the townfolk, make me want to throw things at the screen? Yep. (Seriously; did nobody talk to the folks who filmed the first episode with Becky only six months earlier?) Does the FX at the climax feel like really bad SyFy Channel hoo-hah? Absolutely. But this film was shot in Romania, and that gives it an honest touch of not-from-around-here “other” that lifts the film above its cliches.
The “why” of what’s going on seems obvious, but there’s a refreshing twist to things that makes things fun. Plus, you can play Spot The “Homage”; from The Blair Witch Project to Friday the 13th, there’s a lot of bits and pieces the filmmakers riff on here. Including the creepy end-credits music that sounds like John Carpenter.
They’re Watching isn’t for horror fans looking for straight-up scares. But it’s one you can watch with a crowd, as there’s nothing too horrifying for folks not down with the genre. Add some popcorn – and perhaps a shot every time a character does something any sane person would think is insulting as hell – and you’ll have yourself a good time.
Score: out of 5 pumpkins.