The Watcher: they’re watching you
After Monster : The Jeffrey Dahmer Story and The Midnight Club, Netflix series continue to ramp up the scares during this Halloween month with The Watcher, a home invasion led by the father of small screen horror, Ryan Murphy.
Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone… Ryan Murphy has been busy since the beginning of the school year, and it’s not to our displeasure. If the adaptation of the story of the cannibal of Milwaukee beats all the records, The Watcher has made a discreet entrance on the platform since its release this Thursday, October 13. Like the one about Dahmer, this new series is inspired by real facts. It is indeed drawn from the story of the Broaddus family, who became victims of threatening letters shortly after moving to New Jersey in 2014. The 657 Boulevard residents sold the rights to Netflix after getting their story out in the press.
In The Watcher, the Brannock family moves from New York City to the upscale Westfield neighborhood, where they’ve found their dream home. The couple (Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale) has gone into debt for this luxurious home, which they soon regret when mysterious letters arrive in their mailbox. They then understand that they are being watched by a threatening individual, who calls himself The Watcher. Their suspicions quickly turn to their neighbors with strange behavior and paranoia sets in…
If the prospect of moving into the huge 657 Boulevard house was a dream for the Brannock family, it soon turns into a nightmare. From the very beginning, Ryan Murphy sets the mood by making a reference to the first episode of American Horror Story, when the neighbor’s handicapped brother enters the new owners’ house uninvited because he is “very attached” to it. As soon as they drop off their luggage in the building, the locals turn hostile towards the Brannock. They act as if they owned the house and are very insistent. They come to their garden to pick up salads, criticize their choices of work, try to forbid them certain changes… All of them hover around the house in a suspicious way. As in Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, each of the invasive neighbors intrude between the four walls of the house.
The Watcher has everything it takes to make of a good home invasion : an oppressive atmosphere, neighbors who all look shady and threatening, a police chief who is more than suspicious… Enough to stir up trouble and make the Brannock family completely paranoid. Harassed by a crow in his own home, the father decides to investigate as the strange phenomenons multiply: his son’s ferret is killed, a man was hiding in the house’s flatbed… all the way to the supposed sectarian aberrations of the neighborhood. The eye of the camera is sometimes hidden in the bushes, as if we were observing the house from the Watcher’s point of view, reinforcing the voyeurism of the series. The viewer becomes the anonymous stalker who terrorizes the owners of the house in each era.
…no culprit !
Indeed, the series sows many trails, but none of them leads to anything. If the real family from which it was inspired never found the identity of its stalker, we could have hoped for a different ending in The Watcher. Because here the viewer is left hungry, which can be very frustrating ; as if he was watching a Who done it? without the final resolution of the investigation. The 7 episodes are well paced, but the end falls a little flat and we almost dare to hope for a second season. We see that all the former owners are obsessed with the house even after selling it. The story could have continued with a new family, but the end remains open for the biggest disappointment of the public.
However, Dean, the father of the family, was very invested in discovering the identity of the raven — his interest in it even turned into an obsession. He goes from discovery to discovery, and yet he can’t entirely trust the information he gets from the police, his private investigator, nor even the previous owners of 657 Boulevard. No one seems to be very reliable and the father’s life is getting worse and worse. Too busy with his investigation, the father withdraws from his family like Ellison Oswalt in Sinister, who locks himself in his office to watch the tapes he found. Dean’s character is overwhelmed: he went into debt to afford his dream home and didn’t get the promotion he wanted at work, his marriage suffers and he becomes too judgmental about his daughter’s actions. The tension between him, his family and the neighborhood is at its highest. At first, he tries to keep face : like Jean-Claude Romand, he pretends to go to work and this madness is added to the previous ones. Nothing goes right anymore : a parallel is drawn between his descent into hell and the one of the former owners, John, who killed his entire family. Links are made between the past and the present : they both lie about their jobs, harass and sexualize their daughter etc. Dean follows in John’s footsteps and it can only end badly…
In conclusion, the series embarks the spectator in a gripping story, but leaves him hungry. As for Ryan Murphy, he doesn’t stop there because American Horror Story will be back this Thursday, October 20th. For its 11th season, the title AHS: NYC suggests quite clearly that the Big Apple will play a major role in this new story that will take place in different times.