STABFORD DEATHRAGE’S NETFLIX NASTIES: They’re Watching (2016)
A home improvement reality TV show focuses on a house where a witch was burned at the stake in this cliched, derivative, ‘found footage’ horror film.
In the Eastern European country of Moldova, a home improvement reality show sends a crafter and her boyfriend soccer player to film them as they buy a secluded, ruined shell of a house, where a crucial-to-the-plot-but-barely-mentioned witch was burned at the stake. 6 months later, the film crew returns to see how the renovations have turned out.
Stereotypical locals lurk about, behaving suspiciously and very un-American, which is scary, I guess? The unlikeable crew stumbles upon and films a funeral, raising the ire of the locals. Finally arriving at the house, they find it has been miraculously transformed by some plywood and a few coats of paint, and meanwhile the boyfriend is suspiciously absent.
Everyone eats at a restaurant called the Burning Stake to remind the viewers this movie is about a witch. Meanwhile the locals glare at them threateningly. After many vodkas, suspicious looking burgers, and some impressive musicianship, the legend is told. Let me break it down for you: A witch was burned at the stake. Yep, that’s pretty much it.
After finding a frog, someone discovers the barn was only painted on the front, the stake where the witch burning took place 100 years ago is still easily located, and cliched ‘found footage’ video technical difficulties occur. The sound guy is bitten by a playful dog, and rushed to the local doctor/butcher, because of course he is. A frog mosaic is unsurprisingly discovered in the cellar of the witch house, because of course it is. A witch mural is unsurprisingly partially discovered in the cellar, because of course it is. The crew’s van is vandalized seemingly by the locals, and everyone discovers they have no cellphone coverage, because of course this happens. The cameraman opens up about his tour of duty in Afghanistan, resulting in a brief, effective moment of drama and characterization.
The witch finally makes an appearance in the last few minutes of the film. Surprisingly, this results in some fun, imaginative carnage that doesn’t exactly make up for the dreariness of the other 80 slow-moving, stagey, and remarkably witch-free minutes.
They’re Watching just barely differentiates itself from the Blair Witch Project and the ‘found footage’ genre by actually including a witch and having her do something, but that doesn’t make it ok. If you insist on watching it, utilize your fast-forward button.