Directed By: Jay Lender, Micah Wright
Starring: Mia Marcon, Kris Lemche, David Alpay
Tag line: "Which House? Witch House"
Trivia: The writers describe this film as "a workplace comedy that goes horribly wrong" not a horror movie
A 2016 found footage style horror / comedy, They’re Watching is, at times, a very funny movie. Which makes sense, I suppose, when you consider that Jay Lender, one of the creative minds behind SpongeBob Squarepants, helped write and direct it. But a quick note to all you horror fans out there: don’t let this film’s humor scare you away, because when the chips are down, They’re Watching is as tense and frightening as it is hilarious.
The crew of Home Hunters Global, an American-based reality show that helps people find their dream house, travels to a small village in the Eastern European country of Moldova to follow up on Becky (Brigid Brannagh), an artist who, in a previous episode, left the comforts of Los Angeles behind to live in this isolated corner of the world. The three-person camera crew, Greg (David Alpay), Alex (Kris Lemche), and newcomer Sarah (Mia Faith), are met at the hotel by the show’s ill-tempered host Kate (Carrie Genzel) and Vladimir (Dimitri Diatchenko), a Moldavian real estate agent who helped broker the original deal for Becky’s new home.
Unfortunately, the locals in this tiny hamlet are none too happy to have the Home Hunters team around, and warn them to leave the area as quickly as possible. Vladimir tells his new American friends not to worry; the villagers are overly-superstitious, and still believe in things like witches and black magic, making them immediately wary of foreigners. But when the group finally arrives at Becky’s house, they find themselves mired in a situation much more deadly than any of them anticipated.
The opening sequence of They’re Watching, which presents the original episode where Becky moved to Moldova, has its share of funny moments, some involving Becky’s arrogant boyfriend Goran (Cristian Balint), who isn’t very bright. But the majority of the movie’s humor comes courtesy of its three leads, David Alpay, Kris Lemche and Mia Marcon, who take great pleasure in poking fun at one another and the seemingly backward Moldavian population. Lemche’s Alex is particularly quick-witted, needling Sarah for being related to the show’s producer and her recent graduation from film school, though his sharpest comments are reserved for the locals (his “observations” while driving through town are positively hysterical). Carrie Genzel’s Kate made me chuckle a few times as well (mostly because she was such an incredible bitch), but it is Lemche and his two cohorts who keep the laughter flowing.
That said, They’re Watching is not all fun and games. For one, the filmmakers decision to set the movie in Eastern Europe was itself enough to put me on edge; thanks to all the vampire flicks I’ve seen over the years (from Nosferatu to Subspecies), I think I’d rather visit a Cannibal settlement in South America than I would Moldova or any place like it. In addition, the characters have some spooky run-ins with the Moldavians (a misunderstanding at a small church leads to a dangerous showdown), yet the true horror comes once the Home Hunters team arrives at Becky’s house, which is situated in the middle of a deep, dark forest. While the film is definitely funny early on, these later moments (including one very disturbing twist in the story) are no laughing matter.
Along with being a bit goofy, the movie’s finale is CGI-heavy (making it seem more comedic than the filmmakers might have intended), but is not nearly cartoonish enough to spoil what went before it. Delivering chills and laughs in equal doses, They’re Watching is an absolute blast.