Imagine moving to the house of your dreams and then getting bizarre threatening letters about someone ‘watching’ you and your family constantly. The 2022 Netflix series pulls you into an intriguing vortex of fear, anger, anxiety, loathing… it eventually starts taking a toll on your mental faculties, because none of its characters are likeable. The plot twists and the protagonists’ constant knee-jerk reactions to everything is annoyingly exaggerated.
Created by Ian Brennan and Ryan Murphy, the horror/thriller series stars Naomi Watts, Bobby Cannavale as Nora and Dean Brannock. The Brannocks move from New York into a gorgeous suburban property with their little son and teen daughter, only to slowly discover the house has a terrifying history of murders when someone starts sending them twisted letters. There are multiple suspects who could want them out of the house. Is it the creepy neighboring retired couple Maureen (Margo Martindale) and Mitch (Richard Kind)? Or the creepier brother-sister duo Pearl (Mia Farrow) and Jasper Winslow (Terry Kinney), who are obsessively fond of the dumbwaiter in the Brannock home. Or perhaps it’s the security-systems guy Dakota (Henry Hunter Hall), who benefits with the family buying his home security services? The suspect list keeps getting bigger, like a good old Agatha Christie novel, minus the easy pleasing entertaining mystery. Noma Dume plays private detective Theodora Birch, the Miss Marple of the muddled mystery.
One can barely blame the stellar cast for the faults in the writing. Bobby Cannavale, last seen in ‘Blonde’, is compelling as Dean Brannock, a man who loves his family but loses his shit when things get a little scary. Noah quickly morphs into a psycho-white-guy, who lets his paranoia get the best of him. His ‘over-protective’ behavior towards his teen daughter is discomforting. Naomi Watts seems to have taken a shine to the horror genre these days, but feels a little wasted in this series. Her 2022 horror film ‘Goodnight Mommy’ and this series are at par with each other in mediocrity. Jennifer Coolidge was surprisingly more entertaining as her pretentious bitchy friend and foul-mouthed real-estate agent Karen Calhoun.
For those who aren’t aware, this series is based on a real life case, which remains unsolved until date. And while it’s understandable why some creators try to be as loyal to their source material as possible, it’s pretty clear the directors of this limited series have taken a LOT of creative liberties with the plot. So why not thrown in a fictional ending that gives closure to viewers? After seven freaking hours of “oh this asshole is tormenting us” and “this bitch is trying to ruin us” by the protagonists, we are left hanging with an idiotic made-up climax. And there’s no scope for a sequel. Okay, maybe a little… but it would be too contrived and stretched. Especially if the same writing team is brought onboard.
Anyway, there are some interesting themes in ‘The Watcher’ that keep the plot intriguing. It’s sort of a cautionary tale about living beyond one’s means and the perils of materialism.
It’s a 5/10 from.
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