Ambition in filmmaking is to be applauded and respected. Successful or otherwise, without it we would be left watching the same tired stories repeated endlessly. Horror, in particular, suffers greatly from repetition, with themes and plots regurgitated without so much as a hint of original thought. That said, if you do swing for the fences, you better be confidant you might reach them.
Watch Over Us follows a very familiar horror construct. A family in a remote house are plagued by noises, inexplicable occurrences and are having, on the whole, a rather uncomfortable time. Single father Jon (Link) is unemployed, struggling to find new work, and is awkwardly unsuccessful on the dating scene. Daughters Eliza (Pohl) and Becca (Schaefer) constantly give him a hard time, primarily about their living arrangements, which are as barely welcome guests in their grandfather’s home. As the mysterious disturbances increase they seek a solution, and soon discover it’s all related to a barn on the property.
All very familiar then, but when Watch Over Us makes its play in the second act, you’ll likely chuckle with frustrated disbelief at the audacity of the reveal. Much of the problem stems from a lack of real conviction in what’s gone before. Writer and director (and editor and cinematographer) F. C. Rabbath never manages to instil enough credible dread or threat into the story, rendering the reality of the situation somewhat bland. It’s also ludicrous. Instead of playing around with a more conventional idea, and instilling that with some much-needed originality, Watch Over Us goes entirely left field with no hint of irony, and instantly leaves behind any viewers still persevering with the tired premise.
Further issues come from Rabbath’s history with short films. While not exactly cramp-inducingly long at just 67-minutes, Watch Over Us feels like an extended short film, one that lacks the necessary depth to justify a feature length release. Trimmed down this could have been a neat, lean and entertaining movie, with the preposterousness of the reveal played for darkly comedic effect rather than the solemn severity it is here.
It is a shame when ambition falls short of achieving the heights it strives for. Rabbath clearly has the imagination, and the drive to deliver a decent film, but Watch Over Us is lacking in the necessary components. A story that simply doesn’t work, performances that are patchy at best, and production values that convey the impression of being filmed on a cheap handheld camera. Disappointing.
WATCH OVER US / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: F. C. RABBATH / STARRING: DANIEL LINK, AVERY KRISTEN POHL, ELLA SCHAEFER / RELEASE DATE: UK RELEASE DATE TBA