Chloe Okuno’s debut feature “Watcher,” a chilly tale of gaslighting that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, returns Maika Monroe to her rightful place as a horror-movie scream queen eight years after the premiere of “It Follows.” Genre stalwart IFC Midnight scooped the film out of this year’s (all-virtual) Sundance and will release it in theaters June 3, followed by VOD on June 21. Watch the trailer below.
Monroe stars as Julie, who joins her husband (Karl Glusman) when he has to relocate to his family’s native Romania for a new job. Julie only recently abandoned her acting career to follow him to Bucharest, and so she often finds herself alone, unoccupied and despondent amid the anonymous apartment complex that surrounds her. (The blank facades and crumbling interiors of the structures suggest corporate housing made after the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu.) One night, while people-watching from her window, Julie sees a vague-looking figure watching her across the shaft in an adjacent building. Later, her sense of being followed intensifies, but by whom exactly remains unclear. All the while, a serial killer known as The Spider is stalking the streets, slashing women’s throats to the point of nearly beheading them.
But if that sounds gruesome, it’s not quite the slow-burn effect this movie oozes — and with the added, paranoiac dread of late-’60s and early-’70s thrillers, from “Rosemary’s Baby” to “Klute,” where a woman is constantly shifting to evade the crosshairs of danger. The other obvious reference is, of course, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” here dashed with a bit of De Palma luridness.
IndieWire wrote that it’s impossible not to enjoy “the references Okuno makes to films like ‘Charade,’ with its extended underground metro sequences, ‘The Tenant,’ with Julia’s overly sensitive landlord, and ‘Lost in Translation,’ with its beautiful woman doing nothing in a new city.”
Variety wrote that if “Watcher” “has an agenda beyond being a fun, shivery, fish-out-of-water chiller, is not so much a manifesto to Believe All Women as it is a reminder to all women watching to at least believe ourselves.”
Shudder will take the first streaming window of the film, which also just played SXSW in Austin, following its theatrical run.