With Halloween Ends proving something of a badly smashed pumpkin, there’s still two weeks until Halloween itself, so scary stories are at a premium. Although the poster looks fairly conventional as a horror pic, Blumhouse director Jacob Estes throws out a very disconcerting, elliptical and rather effective post-modern found-footage movie with He’s Watching. If you don’t like murk, phone screens and shaky cam, stay away, but there’s enough originality on show to make He’s Watching worth pointing out to genre fans.
There’s been a pandemic, worse, much worse than the one we’re still living through. Adults die abruptly, but children do not; two moppets (played by Estes’ own kids) wait at home, hoping that their parents will return from hospital. They send video clips and mini-movies to their dad, who is reportedly in a coma; he’s a horror movie director, and the house is full of props and posters which reflect his macabre taste. When the kids start making movies themselves, they realise that someone or something is in the house with them, and the fact and fiction of the kids’ situation gets a little…distorted.
So while we get staples like creepy dolls, creepy kids drawings, creepy faces looking out from closets, a teenage girl trying to defend a young boy from a masked killer, it’s hard to discern which sequences are deliberately faked by the kids or copied from other films. Narrative thrust inevitably gets a bit broken-down in the ensuing melange, but picks up for a sequence or two in which the kids find objects from around the house and imagine that they are in communication with a Demon called the Wanderer, the subject of one of their father’s films.
He’s Watching is frustrating at times, and the ending plays a little too pleased with itself for spinning out such a slender yarn at such length. But it’s also an ingenious and original film that asks fresh questions about the legacy of watching horror. Like Nope, or Starry Eyes, He’s Watching takes a caustic view of the abyss of darkness that is the modern entertainment industry, ready to pounce on our souls just when we think we’ve made it.
Thanks to Blue Finch for advance access.
Blue Finch Film Releasing presents He’s Watching on Digital Download 17 October 2022.