They’re Watching pulled a fast one on me. I was ready to critique it as a typical primitivist witch-centered entry in the POV/found-footage genre a la the recent (and totally forgettable) Ghoul. But the final act of this goofy romp deflated my smug academic ego pretty effectively, which is a good thing.
The great majority of They’re Watching is in fact a fairly typical found-footage movie about a film crew for one of those home improvement shows on assignment in Moldova. A difference is that here the focus is less on a putative witch than on the crew’s interactions with the locals: instead of scared running through the woods, it’s typical obnoxious tourist stuff for much of the film, with of course some occult overtones. There’s a good deal of comedy throughout, but it comes almost exclusively from the witty dialogue; the plot is otherwise familiar from any number of similar films.
The filmmakers set us up to expect that the villagers are stupid rustics with outdated beliefs that encourage them to murder outsiders. Meanwhile, the brash, assholish, stereotypically American crew seem pretty ripe for said murdering. (You can imagine me licking my scholastic chops with glee at the chance to tear these assumptions apart.) But the final act changes so abruptly to a gleeful genre spoof that my head is still spinning. (Without spoiling anything, there’s a clear Blair Witch reference that signals the transition to insanity.)
So no cultural critique from me, just a nod to the filmmakers, who clearly watch a lot of horror. It’s not the funniest horror comedy out there, but approached in the right spirit, They’re Watching is pretty entertaining.