Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the horror/thriller IT WATCHES by writer/director Dave Parker. To best describe the story, I will turn to a slightly edited IMDB plot summary:
“Andre, recovering from a recent accident, agrees to help his friend Robert by taking over a house-sitting job at a creepy home nestled in the hills above Los Angeles. As night comes, Andre begins hearing ominous sounds and experiencing strange occurrences throughout the house that lead him to believe he is not alone, and that someone, or something is in the house with him.”
Before I get into this review allow me to state right now: I hate knowing when a feature is going to have a twist ending. To me, knowing this in advance takes most of the fun out of the viewing because I spend most of the time trying to guess what it is going to be before it is revealed. Because of this, I tend to try to walk into films blind so as to best experience any surprises they might have in store.
I felt the need to point this out because the very beginning of this movie drops some hints about what might be in store in a smart fashion. The reason I say smart is, the possible explanations they provide are incredibly varied (ghosts, pranks, or psychopaths) so as to keep us wondering which one(s) they are going to use as their focus. Rarely have I seen a movie pull this trick off as effectively as it was done here, so I was happy to just sit back and watch events unfold without putting any mental effort into the direction of the story.
The plot itself is a fairly traditional haunted house story setup that cleverly toys with the audience expectations. By laying clues and red herrings in equal measure, this piece offers us the choice of trying to piece it all together ahead of time, or just going along for the ride. Without giving anything away I will say this, I chose to go along for the ride option and left feeling entirely satisfied with the direction of the story. While elements of the conclusion felt familiar, it was seemed the most fitting finale they could have picked thanks to their wonderful execution.
While the house itself has a very modern Hollywood hills look to it, they were still able to cram all of the necessary old school atmosphere into the surroundings. When something moved in the background or the floorboards creaked, it helped to emphasize that no matter what the generation, haunted houses are universal. Combining these tropes with the mixed found footage and traditional camera work made the style of this picture feel just as varied as the genres it touches upon.
Rounding out the experience are performers who bring just enough to the table to keep us entertained. The actors do a good job of handling the shifts in style and the uncertainty of the genre; playing well off of one another in a fashion that held my interest until the very end. There was a naturalistic feel to their performances that held just a shade of menace lurking underneath that paired well with the overall tone of this feature.
All in all, the compact run time and the way this plays upon audience expectations makes this an interesting journey for those who have seen a lot of horror films. The shifting story is well matched by the cast who handle the changes in tone with ease. I would recommend this to fans of IDENTITY (2003) as they use similar tactics when it comes to defying genre.
IT WATCHES arrives on digital 12/6 and on DVD 2/21/17
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