THEY’RE WATCHING: ONLY MOLDOVIAN FOUND FOOTAGE IS BEST MOLDOVIAN FOUND FOOTAGE
Sometimes critical consensus is bizarre. A good example for me is the huge excitement around THE CONJURING and its sequel–for me those were okay movies, but man the critics went gaga for them. It works in the opposite direction, too, where some movies that deserve more love end up getting trashed for no apparent reason. Obviously, different strokes for different folks, but it is weird.
I read some reviews of the recent found footage film THEY’RE WATCHING, which were all pretty dismissive. For some reason, the idea behind the movie sounded kinda good, so I went ahead and checked it out, and I’ll be damned! It’s a pretty good little horror movie, actually.
THEY’RE WATCHING, written and directed by Jay Lender and Micah Wright, follows the hapless three person crew of a home improvement reality show called Home Hunters Global with Kate Banks, as they return to rural Moldova to check in with an American woman who bought a house in the middle of nowhere, with an eye toward fixing it up for her and her euro-trash boyfriend.
Right off the bat, I could see why folks might dismiss this film. It maybe didn’t need to be found footage (the “why are they still filming?” vibe is strong with this one), and the combination of humor and horror is always a little off putting. Also, the trio of crew members–Greg (Dave Alpay), Sarah (Mia Faith), and Alex (Kris Lemche)–are a little on the annoying-American-model-looking side of things. To make matters even more problematic, it has a cold open that gives away the awful fate of a few main characters. BUT, I wonder how many critics watched the whole thing without fast forwarding, because it turned out to be a pretty entertaining, smart, and well-made little horror film.
Things get started after the horrific cold open, with the spoof television show, which is pretty funny. It introduces us to Becky (Brigid Brannagh), a flaky LA-based potter who is looking for a fresh start in Europe, and her thoroughly repulsive new boyfriend, Goran (Cristian Balint). They find a house in a tiny hamlet of about 200 people, due to the work of Vladimir (a standout Dimitri Diachenko), the “best real estate broker in Moldova”, who explains that “only real estate broker is best real estate broker”. I knew I was going to mostly like this film when Goran takes one look at the hideous pile of shit old house Vladimir has found for them and says, “This is the worst house in all of Moldova”, while Becky beams. I guess you had to be there…
When the crew returns to check in with Becky and Goran six months later, the house has been completely renovated. Unfortunately, the local villagers take an immediate dislike to the Americans, and slowly ramping paranoia takes hold. Add to the mix a historical witch burning, a sly look at the power of capturing images on film, and mostly good performances and you have a winner in my book.
Okay, so this isn’t some secret masterpiece, but it’s much better than most horror films, and commits to its folk horror premise with equal gusto to its comedic side, without watering either down. I would take this movie over WE ARE STILL HERE any effing day!
MY REVIEW: NOT A BAD LITTLE FILM!