Directed by F. C. Rabbath
Starring Daniel Link, Elly Schafer & Avery Kristin Pohl
Indie Film Review by Lorenzo Lombardi
'Watch Over Us’. A title suitably conceived, serving as a hint at an integral plot point and reveal that will strike viewers with not just shock but also bafflement. These reactions could be mentioned when discussing the whole film’s story and narrative, and those invoked emotions are not necessarily the best effects the film could have had.
This horror/drama triggers its story by focusing on a family struggling to cope after a break-up. Jon (Daniel Link) alongside his two daughters Becca (Elly Schafer) and Eliza (Avery Kristin Pohl) decide to stay at their grandfather’s secluded home. As Jon seeks out steady employment as well as rejuvenation of his love life by attempting a few blind dates, his daughters start claiming to hear creepy sounds emerging from around the farm, but especially from within the barn. This plot soon serves as a parallel of Jon’s decisions in life and the general question of “do the ends justify the means”, making the film a bit more meaningful.
Firstly, horror stories with haunted structures are an unforgivably clichéd trope. Watch Over Us’ narrative screams the notion of the characters discovering something nefarious in the barn from the first sound of the eerie noises. Maybe it is because the Horror genre is mostly comprised of predictable narratives and unsatisfying antagonists and maybe that is because there is not much room for variety with all that has already been accomplished, but the story did not intrigue me due to a sense of predictability.
What I was really invested in was the dramatic part of the first half. Link’s portrayal of the inadvertently selfish but sometimes humorous Jon is believable and even sympathetic. I believe his character would have been more realised and suitable in a full-on drama or comedy, as well as this part of the plot. The indie film’s themes of ramifications might have also been served better in a more character-driven film, but the drift in the story keeps the characters developmentally trapped.
That plot reveal in question also nonsensically descends the film into that category of undistinguished horror, but some credit is due to the factors of what was achieved despite its low budget and unknown actors. Most of the actors - amid a tad of melodrama from a few others - play their parts solidly, with the daughters played by Schafer and Pohl, and the earlier mentioned Link, being promising highlights.
Production values are up to a high standard. Lighting is very well done, and a couple of scenes even incorporate a rare and stylish method to further emphasize the mood - colour-changing filters. I had not witnessed something like this since an early cinema flick, making the atmosphere and style even more memorable. Its cinematography is often safe but sometimes shines in striking aerial shots that solidify the dread of the location and situation.
Watch Over Us also gets more merit for managing to not manifest its riskier indie horror constituents by remembering a rule that the best horror films follow: “less is better”. In turn, it accomplished a scarier and haunting villain.
All in all, Watch Over Us is a safe but flawed indie film that tries to be serious about its overly familiar set-up, albeit with unfortunate execution. This is decently rectified in hindsight by the satisfying inclusions and implementations of odd jokes, great aerial shots, unusual filters and mostly tolerable performances. Enter director’s F.C. Rabbath’s creation with the expectations of your typical horror flick and you will enjoy it for what it is.