Lionsgate // 2009 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 11th, 2009
24 frames of death exposed.
A tale of terror about a voyeuristic killer who video-records his victims before making their deaths look like suicides. Worth your voyeurism?
A girl named Angela (Allison Tyler) is caught in the grips of some brutal mourning, having a hard time getting past the apparent suicide of her mother. During one of her group therapy sessions, she meets Brian (Zack Stewart) a kindred spirit who's also dealing with a devastating family loss, the suicide of his father.
As if all that crap wasn't enough to sift through, a crazed lunatic is stalking the two of them. It's the titular "Night Watcher," a mysterious, hooded killer who fixes murders to look like suicides and toys with Angela and Brian by sending them voyeuristic videos.
There's some nifty elements to be found in Night Watcher, but I'll save you some time -- there's not enough here to merit a look-see.
As I write this the Knicks have miraculously won three of their last four games, so I'm in a generous mood. Let's just take a peek at what works.
First, is the concept, which has the potential to be genuinely off-putting. Though that potential isn't fully realized over the course of 93 minutes, there are moments which hit a nice horror stride. The high point arrives during a scene in Angela's house, where it's dark and quiet and she's curled up on the couch. The Night Watcher is slinking and sidling about, like the creepy maniac he is, and director Will Gordh is skillfully setting the stage, piping in a tense atmosphere and milking the heck out of the looming danger. It's a great sequence, which is sadly never eclipsed.
The ultimate bad guy reveal isn't bad. It surprised me, though that could be a result of my relative obliviousness to life. The finale is well-handled, an exciting psychological showdown between Angela and the Big Bad.
That's really about all that Night Watcher has going for it. The death scenes are sort of inventive, but having the gimmick of going through so much effort to make deaths look like suicides becomes increasingly tedious, especially when the real target for the mind-F's is no longer fooled by the trick. Aside from limited character development (mainly to a lot of whimpering) and sporadic tense bits, the film moves quite slowly, hinging on the promise of more visits from the titular killer.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen is attractive, clean and nicely detailed, notable considering how much of the action occurs at night. Extras include a commentary from director Will Gordh, and a selection of deleted/alternate scenes with optional commentary arranged in a real pain-in-the-butt fashion -- you have to choose one scene at a time and determine if you want to hear the commentary. Yeah, it's not that much work, but this is the digital age! I don't want to have to think too hard here.
Despite some pluses, Night Watcher falters.
Not Guilty. Skip it.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes