Spoilers will be watching you.

To judge a thriller primarily based on the payoff is like a road trip being only about the destination. The core of every thriller film is in the build up, but I do understand the slower the burn the higher the stakes for a proper climax. Getting this balance right is tricky enough that most thrillers of the horror genre will have close calls and a body count to heighten the excitement. This movie decides to go for the classic setup and… Well, you’ll see.

(Credit: IFC Midnight)

Watcher (2022) was directed by Chloe Okuno. Julia (Maika Monroe) and her husband Francis (Karl Glusman) have moved to Bucharest. He spends most of the day out at the office while she walks around the city. At night Julia observes the tall apartment building and notices there’s always one window where a solitary figure seems to meet her gaze. With a serial killer on the loose and barely able to comprehend the language, Julia feels isolated and threatened by someone who watches her everyday. Unable to make her husband or the authorities listen, she starts to follow her watcher back.

Perhaps that last sentence is too much, but it doesn’t give anything away. This is a very bare bones thriller exacerbated by Julia being in a foreign city and feeling alienated by her surroundings. However, that decision of her to go onto the prowl and following her would-be stalker almost gave me hope that the movie was going to subvert the trope. No such luck. This becomes at the end a very by-the-numbers thriller. The payoff is hardly original or particularly exciting.

The cinematography is quite good. I did like the way we get a sense of the city of Bucharest but at the same time the film build an environment where we can always single out Julia. Maika Monroe’s performance as someone who starts as shy and quiet but ends up taking the initiative makes her quiet an engaging character. Sometimes that trip felt like it had a different destination.

Lightly recommended with reservations. It feels almost like a remake of a classic thriller. A beautiful woman is being stalked and nobody believes her. You almost hope there’s some sort of subversion but it ends up just being the usual outcome. Overall it feels like you’ve watched this movie already. Not really worth a watch unless you’re in the frame of mind of just seeing something you’ve seen before.

That will do for now.