A young couple moves into a new house in suburban Los Angeles, but what they hope is their dream home instead becomes a house of horrors. Edi Gathegi, best known for his role in “The Black List” and Erin Cahill, who played the Pink Ranger in the early 2000’s Power Rangers TV series, star as Noah and Emma who move into the house shortly after losing their baby at birth. Looking for a fresh start they move into the older home of a middle-class subdivision. They are told that one of the previous residents, an elderly Japanese woman, died in the house of a long illness.
They meet busy body neighbor Jeanne (Crosby) and her mentally challenged teenaged son Mikey (Baron) and some of the other neighbors. Not long after settling in they begin to receive notes and packages from a mysterious person, warning them that they are being watched by “the raven” and threatening them if they do not leave the house. Emma, who is running a fledgling fashion design business out of the house, is hit especially hard by the threats, and suffers apparent delusions, seeing the giant raven watching her through the windows.
The threats become more harrowing as Emma is attacked in her home and locked in a closet. while her husband is away. As the police try to unravel the mystery of who the stalker’s identity, Noah, nd Emma gird themselves, refusing to be run out of their home.
“The Watcher” is “inspired” by an actual event that took place in 2015 in New Jersey. Shortly after buying a home but before moving in, the family who bought the home received several threatening letters from someone called The Watcher, and never took possession of the home. To this day the identity of the person writing the letter remains unknown but the story made national news across all the major media outlets.
Writer/Director Ryan Rothmaier, takes this basic premise and expands on it. Probably too much as it turns out. What makes the real story so terrifying is that the identity and the motivations of the original stalker were never discovered. Filmmakers often insist on a clean and neat ending which is what Rothmaier provides even though he does toss in a twist near the end. But how much more daring would the film have been if it was expanded to have the family move in yet be forced to leave, and the assailant and his motivations never revealed?
The performances throughout are uniformly good even if they are by-the-numbers. Noah is the dutiful husband but initially passes off the threat as a kid’s prank. Denise Crosby is a lot of fun as the nosy neighbor who may no more than she claims. In the end though, the revelations are not as compelling as they mystery.