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Paul Asay

Movie Review

Mina could use a change.

Oh sure, Mina actually changes plenty. Every night the woman goes out to the bar, the 28-year-old shows up as someone else. She might be a brunette ballerina. Or a red-headed singer. The blond just dons a wig, slaps on a new personality and voila! No more Mina.

Just as well, she figures. Who’d like Mina anyway? Mina doesn’t even like Mina that much.

But still, a change of scenery would be nice. So when her pet-store-owning boss asks her if she’d be willing to transport a pricey golden conure (think large parakeet) across Ireland, she’s happy to do so. A little road trip might do her good.

But when that road takes her deep into the dwindling Irish forests, something goes mysteriously awry. First, her car conks out. Then, when she gets out of the car to search for help, it vanishes altogether.

And let’s not forget the strange flocks of birds overhead. Or the rumbling ground. Or the creepy sign that says, “Point of No Return 12.”

Mina—still toting her own bird around in its nifty little cage—is getting seriously creeped out when she spies a concrete bunker, with an elderly woman standing in the doorway.

“If you care to live, you’re going to have to run,” the woman tells her.

Run where? Well, to the bunker, presumably. So run Mina does, golden conure swinging by her side. She rumbles into the bunker, takes a breath and eyes her new surroundings.

It’s a simple place: a table. A couch or two. A tube TV and an old-timey phonograph. Oh, and three people. The old woman introduces herself as Madelyn. Danny’s a young man—not much more than a boy, really. And then there’s Ciara, a young woman around Mina’s age. She’s still hopeful that her husband might come back after leaving the bunker—a place they call the “Coop”—six days ago. 

Then there’s that wall of glass. Mina’s barely had time to take a second breath before Madelyn asks everyone to line up and face that glass, so that they can get a good look at the Coop’s newest resident.

They? The Watchers, of course. Those outside the Coop, those who rule the forest, those who hide in in the day and run wild and ravenous in the dark.

Those who kill anyone they catch.

The forest stretches too far in every direction to leave before nightfall. Ciara’s been in the Coop for five months. Madelyn? She might’ve been there for years.

Yeah, Mina needed a change.

But this? Not the change she had in mind.

Positive Elements

Mina tells most anyone—even when they’re not asking—that she’s not a very good person. But perhaps she’s selling herself short, especially as time goes on. Granted, when she first arrives at the Coop, she does seem to be pretty self-centered. But she becomes a full part of this small collective, willing to risk a great deal to save her new friends.

The same could be said of everyone in the Coop, really. They all must work together to survive. Madelyn, especially, proves to be a critical resource. While Mina wonders just who made Madelyn the all-knowing mother hen in their small “family,” Madelyn’s advice seems to be on balance pretty good. And in critical moments, when it looks as though the Watchers may destroy one or all of their little party, Madelyn does what she can to protect them.

Spiritual Elements

[Note: Spoilers are contained in this section.]

We learn about halfway through the movie that The Watchers are creatures straight out of Irish folklore. They’ve had many names, including “changelings” and “the winged people,” but they were most commonly called faeries.

But don’t confuse these creatures with cute, pixie-like children with pointed hats and glittery wings. No, these are intimidating beings. And while their relationship with humankind has seen better days, the two have a long history with each other. We see scrolls and tapestries that feel medieval, depicting the two groups hanging out together. (Sometimes, angels are shown on the artifacts, too—and because faeries used to have wings, it’s possible that those ancient authors could’ve mistaken one for the other.)

Mina names her parakeet Darwin. We see a church in the background of a couple of scenes. Mina sometimes sees spectral figures in the forest. There’s a reference or two to magic.

Sexual Content

The Coop’s residents are starved for entertainment: Apart from a handful of music albums, the only entertainment available to them is one season (on DVD) of a tawdry reality show, wherein couples shack up together in one big house before being kicked out, two-by-two. Moviegoers see snippets of the show, including some distant shots of people in bathing suits and of a couple of women in cleavage-baring outfits. We see just a bit of kissing, too, as well as some conversations about how certain people would do in bed.

As you may recall from a few hundred words earlier, Ciara arrived at the Coop with her husband, John. John apparently thought that Danny, the other guy there, had a crush on his wife. As mentioned, John disappeared six days before Mina arrived, and most presume him dead (though Ciara still holds out hope). And as the captives spend more and more time together, we see hints that Ciara and Danny could become an item: They dance together in a silly sort of way. And Ciara tells Danny that, if they escape, Danny’s welcome to stay with her. (She seems to say this more as a friend than out of any romantic inkling, but still.)

A man seems to show up, at night, outside the Coop’s door, and we see parts of him via video camera, including his exposed legs and shoulders. (The suggestion is that he’s naked, of course.)

Facsimiles of dozens of people stand together, apparently naked—though these facsimiles have no critical body parts with which to hide. (The rest of their bodies are rather loosely defined, as well.)

We learn that Watchers and humans were known to fall in love and breed, and that sometimes led to progeny that were not fully Watcher or human.

Violent Content

Darwin, Mina’s parakeet, does not say much. But occasionally, it offers this helpful bit of encouragement: “Try not to die.”

Easier said than done.

The Watchers do kill people. We see one man running through the woods in an opening scene. He climbs up a tree and falls off—knocking him senseless and breathless for a second—before he comes to and starts crawling (in obvious pain) toward a weapon he dropped. He’s bloodied a bit from the fall, but worse things are in store for him. Another Watcher (unseen by moviegoers) pulls him away and down into a hole, the man screaming all the while.

We see a Watcher break someone’s neck, too. We’re told that no one really comes out of the forest if they’re there after dark, and dozens of “Missing” posters add weight to that statement. We hear about how someone habitually listened to the screams of those whom the Watchers kill.

In flashback, we see a horrible car crash and its aftermath. The driver of the car is killed (we see a bloody mark on the windshield for a split second) and later, the unattended body lies in the road. A survivor still bears the scars of the accident.

Danny breaks a crow’s neck, with the bird about to serve as dinner for the Coop. Someone’s fingers get caught in a car window. A character is knocked unconscious by a picture frame. A fingernail cuts deeply into someone’s wrists. Danny talks about how his abusive father broke his nose (twice) and a couple of ribs. Watchers do some significant property damage. We hear two gunshots off screen—one shot aimed at a Watcher, the other the culmination of a suicide. We hear that someone died from cancer.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word, courtesy the tawdry reality show mentioned earlier. We also hear two s-words and one use each of “p-ss” and “b–tard.” God’s name is misused about a dozen times, once with the word “d–n.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

Mina vapes, and her boss tells her not to smoke around the pets. She and guy drink at a bar.

Other Negative Elements

Characters lie. Someone nearly makes a very selfish and destructive decision.


The Watchers, based on a book by A.M. Shine, is the cinematic directorial debut of Ishana Shyamalan, daughter of meteoric thrill-meister M. Night Shyamalan. But judging from this first effort, daughter Shyamalan has a ways to go.

The story seems to make some halfhearted attempt to address elements like moving on from guilt and grief. And in terms of its aesthetics, the first act is decent—as creepy and as atmospheric as you could ask. But soon, as we begin to learn who the Watchers are, the story quickly falls apart. And if you start asking questions, of all things, The Watchers gets quickly preposterous.

Listen, movies of this type require a certain suspension of disbelief from the get-go, of course—but you could build a bridge from this level of suspension.

I’d love to go into all the movie’s nonsensical moments, but most of those inevitably dive into some spoilers. And you’re not here to listen to my kvetching anyway. But allow me this small diversion:

As noted in the intro, Mina walks away from her dead car and into the forest to look for help. She takes about a dozen paces before deciding its hopeless. So she turns around and—whoa—finds the car’s no longer there!

But hold on. The Watchers don’t gallivant in the woods before the sun goes down, and the sun’s not quite there yet. So that doesn’t make sense, unless the Watchers also hire human henchlings to carry away disabled vehicles for them. But even if we allowed Watchers an occasional late-afternoon walk in the woods, why pick up an already useless car and hide it in the forest? And where would they hide it in the span of, what, a minute? And while we’re at it, why would the car die in the first place? It’s not like the Watchers inherently short-circuit electronics or combustion engines or anything, and it doesn’t seem like they’re that keen on crafting car-killing technology. And why—

Well, you get the idea. As in the case of most horror movies, the monsters in The Watchers are scarier before you know who they are and what they can do. But The Watchers also undercuts itself by also allowing its monsters to do things that, turns out, they can’t actually do.

The Watchers does come with a creepy, disquieting vibe and a dollop of mystery, but so does my desk. And trust me, no one would be interested in making a movie about that.

But while The Watchers is not a good movie, at least it’s not particularly ooky. This chiller stays true to its PG-13 rating. Both its language and violence are tamer than you’d likely find in a superhero movie. And while this story is loosely “supernatural,” it only dips its toes into some spiritual-adjacent issues, rather than taking a long, leisurely swim with them. And while the film can be creepy and freaky, with peril lurking around every concrete corner, its scares are ultimately mitigated by its slightly ludicrous underpinnings.

If, for some reason, you’ve been looking for a scary movie to take a teen to, you could do worse. But if you’d like the movie to be good as well, you could do better.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.