How does this stalker thriller end?
If Maika MonroeHis acting career started in 2014 with the hit horror film It follows, it looked like the actress was on her way to superstardom. Instead, she chose a different path and built an impressive resume with some excellent smaller films such as: villains And Better half. Maybe the best thing she’s done in the last few years is last year Observer, A thriller starring Monroe as a woman who is being pursued by a serial killer. While films with this premise have been made numerous times, observer is something else that clings to its star with a quiet performance that starts out slow, the tension building bit by bit, to the unnerving ending you won’t soon forget. Written and directed by Chloe Okuno in her first feature film Watcher, an important film for both men and women.
The Watcher begins as a story about loneliness and possible paranoia
A lot of observer focuses on loneliness, like Maika Monroe plays Julia, who used to be an actress in America but is now in her new home of Budapest, Romania, where her husband Francis (Karl Glusman) works after a transfer. Julia is lost, unable to speak the language of her husband’s new colleagues, while at the same time being so far from her true home and former career. Her husband and his friends gossip about the news of The Spider, a serial killer on the loose who kills young women around Budapest and then cuts off their heads.
While Francis is at work all day, Julia is stuck in her apartment with nothing to do. She is a lonely woman trying to learn the language, walking around the city alone during the day. One night, through the picture window in her bedroom, she sees a shadowy figure watching her from the window of the building across the street. When she is out and about, Julia senses that someone is watching her. Tension mounts when a woman is murdered near where she lives. An interview with a survivor mentions the feeling of being watched before being attacked.
While Julia is back in town, she can still sense someone watching her as well. She tries to abandon anyone following her in a movie theater, but when someone sits right behind her, Julia jumps into a supermarket. The same person comes in behind her a short time later and Julia tries to hide from him in the corridors. She manages to hide behind a door and get a decent look at his face, but luckily he doesn’t see her. Later that day, Julia tells Francis what happened and tricks him into going to the supermarket so they check their camera footage of the incident. Although a man can actually be seen sneaking slowly behind Julia, Francis dismisses this as a coincidence and concludes that Julia is simply stressed out by her new surroundings.
Our heroine’s fears turned out to be correct
That night Julia sees the shadowy figure watching her again from across the street. Is it the same man who followed her into the store? We can’t tell. Julia is brave enough to wave at him, and to her horror and ours, he waves back. She’s not exaggerating. Julia now has proof that the man is actually watching her. She calls the police and they go to the building to speak to the person who lives there, a man named Daniel Weber, played by the great English actor Burn Gormanbut nothing will come of it.
Julia is convinced he’s that serial killer everyone’s talking about, The Spider, so the next day she takes matters into her own hands and turns the tables on Daniel by following him. She watches him go to a strip club called The Museum. Julia goes to the club where she discovers that Irina (Madalina Ana), her neighbor and only friend, is a dancer there. She also sees Daniel working there as well as a janitor.
That night, Julia hears strange noises from Irina’s apartment, where she lives alone. It sounds like a fight is coming. Worried, Julia knocks on Irina’s door, but no one answers. She fetches a neighbor with a key to let her in, but when they go to Irina’s apartment, no one is there. Again, Francis ignores her concerns. One might wonder if Julia is really imagining it, but then Irina’s ex-boyfriend Cristian (Daniel Nuta), tells Julia that he was supposed to meet with Irina the night before, but she never came home from work. Julia is sure that her guard has done something to Irina, so she gets Cristian to take her across the street and confront Daniel himself. Cristian knocks on Daniel’s door, but nobody answers. After Cristian is gone and is now alone, Julia also tries to knock on the door. This time someone answers, but instead of Daniel it’s an old man. Later that evening, the cops show up at Francis and Julia’s apartment with Daniel in tow. He called her about Julia, who he says is stalking him. Daniel explains himself and although she is very uncomfortable, he gets Julia to shake his hand.
Some time later, after making fun of a joke at a party she is going to with her husband, Julia disembarks and boards a subway to go home. Daniel is sitting in her almost empty car. He watches her, then even gets up and walks towards her. He apologizes for scaring her and says he’s not a bad person, he’s just a lonely man taking care of his ailing father. Julia doesn’t believe him, and now she has another reason to be very suspicious, because he’s carrying a bag that looks like it could fit a human head.
Crawled out, she gets off the subway and almost runs home. When she gets to her apartment she starts packing, ready to leave behind this stalker and the people who don’t believe her but only mock her. Then Julia listens to music in Irina’s apartment next door. She knows she shouldn’t, but she needs to investigate. She breaks into Irina’s apartment and suddenly this slow-burning thriller turns into an uncompromising horror film. Irina is home, or at least what’s left of her, because her headless body is waiting to be discovered. Daniel appears behind her and puts a bag over her head, causing her to faint. When she wakes up, Daniel is there watching her. He confesses that he is the spider and that he even hid in the closet with Irina when Julia looked into the apartment days before.
The Watcher shows how far a woman must go to protect herself
There seems to be no way out, but at that moment Julia hears Francis coming home from the party. She tries to scream, but Daniel cuts her throat with a knife. It’s no small wound. Julia squirts blood. She tries to get to the gun she knows Irina keeps at the apartment, but she doesn’t make it there. Your world goes dark while the observer watches.
We are now going to Francis in the apartment he shares with Julia. He sees her cell phone, but no Julia. Francis calls her and hears the phone ringing in the apartment next door. As he enters the hallway, Daniel comes out of Irina’s door. They look at each other and while we wait for Francis to finally speak up for his wife, shots ring out and Daniel falls to the ground, dead. Behind him stands Julia, somehow still alive, but covered in blood. She regained consciousness, found Irina’s weapon and took her attack all by herself. She gives Francis a weak but annoyed look, as if trying to tell him all this with just her eyes. The film ends there. We don’t know if Julia lives or dies. If she survives, we know she will leave Budapest as soon as possible.
The film works on many levels and is not just a thriller with a simple story about a woman who is being pursued. It speaks to what so many women go through when being watched in such an uncomfortable way, whether by a serial killer or just a man who doesn’t understand boundaries. It also shows us how quick we are to dismiss and not believe them when women talk about how men treat them, even going so far as to poison the woman and drive her insane. This can come from an unsuspecting, self-involved husband or society as a whole. Finally, as the director so vehemently put it in that last scene, when all else fails and no one is going to believe you or stand up for you, a woman is strong enough to deal with her attacker alone if she has to or with the Help a friend who is going through the same thing as it is her dead friend’s gun that saves her. In the end, Julia is right, but at what cost? She has to lose everything, not just almost her life, but maybe her marriage as well, just to prove herself in a rapidly turning away world.