The Watched review: "Apply logic and the wheels come fully off"

The Watchers
(Image: © Warner Bros.)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Entwining Irish folklore, dead-parent issues, eco-anxiety, and reality-show commentary, The Watched is an acceptable mid-tier horror. It'll be far more interesting to see what Shyamalan does next.

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Does the apple fall far from the sinister, twisty tree? M. Night Shyamalan’s Gen Z daughter Ishana makes her writing and directorial debut with The Watched (released in the US as The Watchers), a tale of dread that shares traits with dad’s work – not least the ability to conjure a strong vibe without necessarily sustaining it. 

Based on A.M. Shine’s bestselling horror novel, it nails the ‘rules’ of a spooky world within 15 mins and then, like the road the protagonist drives on, becomes less distinctive and more bumpy the longer it goes on. Apply logic and the wheels come fully off.

The rules, then: a forest in the west of Ireland "draws lost souls"  with anyone entering finding it impossible to leave, devoured by unseen forces at nightfall. After the summary offing of a hiker, we cut to Mina (Dakota Fanning), a grief-worn pet-shop worker who’s transporting a parrot to the zoo when her car breaks down in the forest. 

She discovers a shack with a mirrored wall that’s ‘home’ to a group of people who are coerced to enact a weird kind of Big Brother existence while being observed by malevolent forces from outside. Ciara (Georgina Campbell), Madeline (Olwen Fouéré), and Daniel (Oliver Finnegan) instruct Mina in the ways of the forest: don’t turn your back, don’t be out after dark, don’t go to their burrows…

Mina and her new cohorts make a plan to escape, but it wouldn’t be a Shyamalan flick (M. Night produces) without a twist - the dramatic impact of which will depend largely on how much you buy into the transformative power of human compassion, and also your willingness not to question the logistics in play. 

The Watched (releasing as The Watchers in the US) opens in UK cinemas and US theaters on June 7. 

For more, check out our guides to all the upcoming horror movies on the way and our picks of the best horror movies of all time.

Contributing Editor, Total Film

Jane Crowther is a contributing editor to Total Film magazine, having formerly been the longtime Editor, as well as serving as the Editor-in-Chief of the Film Group here at Future Plc, which covers Total Film, SFX, and numerous TV and women's interest brands. Jane is also the vice-chair of The Critics' Circle and a BAFTA member. You'll find Jane on GamesRadar+ exploring the biggest movies in the world and living up to her reputation as one of the most authoritative voices on film in the industry.