Far from being Night in shining armour : The Tribune India

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Far from being Night in shining armour

Far from being Night  in shining armour

‘The Watchers’ has an interesting enough premise, but ends with the typical twist.

Film: The Watchers

Director: Ishana Night Shyamalan

Cast: Dakota Fanning, Georgina Campbell, Olwen Fouéré, Siobhan Hewlett, Alistair Brammer, Hannah Howland, Oliver Finnegan and Charles Camrose

Johnson Thomas

AM Shine’s novel is the source material for this half-baked attempt at spooks in the typical Shyamalan tradition. Since it is Night Shyamalan’s 23-year-old daughter Ishana’s debut as a writer/director, it seems the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. The stylistic choices are similar, but the assurance and polish are missing. Ishana’s vision is a little cramped and near-sighted.

‘The Watchers’ has an interesting enough premise centred around a suspenseful folktale. Set in an eerie location, it ends with the typical twist. But that’s about it. There’s not much in between.

Mina (Dakota Fanning), a lonesome American from Galway, exhibiting hints of a past trauma, has set out on a journey, instructed by her boss to deliver a golden parrot to a zoo near Belfast. Her car breaks down in the middle of a thick, dense forest. Mina is forced to search for help. Instead of taking the road, she enters the eerie woods and eventually gets embroiled in the traditional ‘Night’ fantasy.

A scared Mina begins to run and finds a small bunker called ‘The Coop’, having three inhabitants: Madeleine (Olwen Fouere), Ciara (Georgina Campbell) and Daniel (Oliver Finnegan). They claim they are prisoners of forest creatures who come and stay as watchers all through the night. The creatures want the trio to greet them at the window, and allow themselves to be observed.

The audience is expected to understand the labyrinthine layout and immeasurable density of the forest, which disallows anyone from finding a way out before nightfall. So, their survival hinges on getting back to ‘The Coop’ before nightfall, in time to greet the watchers when they arrive. Otherwise, they can expect a very violent death. The opening sequence of a man wandering into the dense wood conveys that point quite emphatically.

The script is riddled with vague dialogues and unevenly-laid-out genre staples. The narrative struggles to establish fear in a credible manner. It doesn’t get too bloody, but when it does, it feels rather feeble. The only good thing is that the forest creatures look vividly fearsome in the dark but this scare factor dissipates completely once they come into the light. The narrative seems uneven and unaccomplished.

The plot and story might have been more interesting. The characters feel one-dimensional. Even though there’s a hint of trauma in Mina’s past, it is never explained. The one-note performances might add mystery, but fail to provide depth to the characters.

The characters also lack in realism. Their actions look silly and leave many unaswered questions. ‘The Watchers’ fails to create likeable characters. The twisted ending borders on the ludicrous and is lacklustre.

The unrefined exposition and voyeuristic visual architecture fail to make the events seem credible. The first half has some crusty atmospheric exposure aided by Abel Korzeniowski’s mystery-lending score, but thereafter, the narrative literally goes off the rails and becomes rather flimsy and unpalatable.