Friday, August 26, 2022

They/Them (2022)

Streaming Service: Peacock
Movie Name/Year: They/Them (2022)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 1h 44min
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Blumhouse Productions, Peacock
Director: John Logan
Writer: John Logan
Actors: Kevin Bacon, Theo Germaine, Anna Chlumsky, Carrie Preston, Quei Tann, Austin Crute, Anna Lore, Monique Kim, Cooper Koch, Darwin del Fabro, Hayley Griffith, Boone Platt, Mark Ashworth
Blurb from IMDb: A group of teenagers at an LGBTQ+ conversion camp endures unsettling psychological techniques while being stalked by a mysterious masked killer.

Selina’s Point of View:
I was skeptical of They/Them. After all, it touches on an incredibly sensitive subject.
Conversion camps are a real, and awful, threat to a huge demographic of people already forced to deal with the unwarranted hatred of others. The traumas that people suffer at these camps are no joke and should never be treated as one. If a film seeks to touch on this kind of subject, it needs to be handled with respect.
Kevin Bacon’s (Frost/Nixon, X-Men: First Class, City on a Hill) involvement is what made me believe I would be walking into the kind of project that would handle things correctly. He’s got a great reputation, even off-screen, and I figured that his casting was a good sign. So, I went into They/Them with some hope.
I’ll start with the good.
The characters were well written. There was a wide variety of personalities, sexualities, and genders. Nothing felt overly stereotypical. Even the characters that might have felt typical if they had been the ‘tokens’ of different movies, felt appropriate because they were surrounded by non-typical characters. They weren’t singled out.
Essentially, all the characters felt like real people.

I did think the creators really painted the camp as awful. There were moments of deep dread from scenes that only involved the camp – with the slasher aspect not a factor.
Unfortunately, that’s where the good ends.
Nothing else about They/Them worked. The scenes that were dreadful about the camp almost seemed out of place. The slasher aspect never fully meshed with the rest of the flick. Even the interactions between characters felt a little forced in most scenes.
The worst part is that all the good will gained from proper representation in the characters was lost through several moments that simply felt exploitative.
They/Them was hard to watch. Not because the horror was good, but because it was all just a hot mess. It was easy to see what the creators were going for, but none of it was very successful.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 34%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 18%
Metascore – 47%
Metacritic User Score – 2.4
IMDB Score –3.5/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 2/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Watcher (2022)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Watcher (2022)
Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
Length: 1h 31min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ, IFC Midnight, IFC Films, Shudder
Director: Chloe Okuno
Writer: Zack Ford, Chloe Okuno
Actors: Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman, Burn Gorman, Madalina Anea
Blurb from IMDb: A young American woman moves with her husband to Bucharest, and begins to suspect that a stranger who watches her from the apartment building across the street may be a local serial killer decapitating women.

Selina’s Point of View:
Very often it will seem like I just don’t like slow burns. Many of my reviews featuring them lean to the negative side. I have ADHD and I need to be stimulated by what I’m watching. I’ll admit, that makes it difficult for a slow burn to really hold my attention. There has to be something truly special about a slow film if I’m going to come away from it feeling what the creators want me to feel.
Watcher was the perfect example of a slow burn done right.
Every single second of Watcher is infused with a loneliness and isolation that you can’t help but feel. It creates a twist in the stomach that almost triggers a hypervigilance. Like the way you feel when you walk into a dangerous neighborhood, or a room where the vibe has turned south. You know something’s wrong, but you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is.

Even the main character’s allies feel off. For instance: her husband seems to be attempting to support her, but he has that inherent ignorance that people have when they’ve never actually gone through what they’re trying to sympathize with. It’s infuriating to watch, but it makes complete sense.
The ending filled me with a sense of dread that I don’t think I’ll be able to fully shake for a bit.
Watcher was expertly crafted and performed. Chloe Okuno’s (V/H/S/94, Slut, Full Circle) script and direction was top notch. Everything flowed naturally, which helped my immersion. Maika Monroe (It Follows, Honey Boy, The Scent of Rain & Lightning) sold the terror and uncertainty in every scene. Burn Gorman (Torchwood, Imperium, Layer Cake) I was already very familiar with, but I almost didn’t recognize him as he embodied his character.
I absolutely recommend Watcher. It premieres on Shudder August 26th.

Cat’s Point of View:
Watcher’s trailer was highly effective in drawing me into the story and getting invested in the characters without giving away too much. When I learned we’d get a chance to screen it in August, I was pretty excited.
Overall, I enjoyed Watcher. It was a slow burn, effective with its steady buildup of tension. For those that have seen this sort of movie before, it might be easy to guess where things are headed, but the ending was satisfyingly unexpected.
The fact that the production was filmed in Bucharest rather than somewhere else, was also a great plus. They got a lot of mileage out of the interesting architecture and facets of the neighborhood where the story was set.

Maika Monroe initially got my attention with It Follows (2014), and she didn’t disappoint with her strong, and memorable, performance in Watcher. Her character’s stress, fear, and frustration were palpable, even when she didn’t say a word. Speaking of words, I appreciated that Watcher lacked subtitles for the Romanian dialogue. It put the audience in the same position as Monroe’s character, with a bit of a fish out of water feeling.
Burn Gorman also delivered a creepy performance that had my skin crawling as events unfolded. It’s usually hard for me to see past his memorable role in the Pacific Rim (2013) movies when he’s on screen, but Watcher had its hooks in me deep enough that I only saw this character.
I was surprised to learn that this was the full-length feature film debut for writer and director Chloe Okuno. I am definitely looking forward to watching more of her work in the future.
Knowing how everything turned out, I wouldn’t mind viewing Watcher again, and I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 88%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 67%
Metascore – 70%
Metacritic User Score – 6.3
IMDB Score –6.3/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 4/5
Movie Trailer: