THE BARNDOOR’S OPEN AND YOUR DEVIL’S HANGING OUT
I would love to tell you all how I obtained a copy of this film, but I have been advised that such a move would be a really, really, really bad decision on my part, at least from a “business” point of view. I can say that I was NOT sent a screener for review, nor did anyone contact me in regards to reviewing this film. I also did not steal or illegally download this film. Nope, this was all perfectly legal. I just don’t remember entering any contests.
All that said, how I obtained the film did not impact my overall opinion of it. Someone may be wishing that it had.
Watch Over Us is a 2015 indie horror film from writer/director F.C. Rabbath (d. 2015’s The Hum). The film was shot in H&S’s home state of Florida (Tallahassee, to be exact), but don’t hold that against it.
Jon (Daniel Link – Krampus Unleashed, Krampus Origins), a down-on-his-luck divorced father, and his two teenaged daughters are forced to move in with his ailing father at the old man’s house in the country. Between jobs, he attempts to rebuild his life. He shows up for all the interviews, resume in hand. However, he is passed over each and every time.
Jon seemingly spends more of his time out on blind dates with women that he’s met through online dating services. Those tend to go worse than the interviews, each date ending disastrously after he is caught smiling at other women. To be fair, he’s not smiling at other women. It’s the same woman each time. The woman has long dark hair, which I guess is enough to mark her as “mysterious”, and possibly “dangerous”. However, what makes her much more enigmatic is that she plays no role whatsoever in the film’s plot, and is soon completely forgotten about. That is, until she pops back up in an utterly superfluous offering of gratuitous nudity late in the film, which may only exist to give the film that “R: rating that jaded fans seem to require in order to take a horror film seriously these days. For the record, the DVD is Unrated.
REVIEWER’S NOTE: How big of a deadbeat is the mother if the father got full custody of both daughters?
The one area where Jon is clearly failing to spend time is at his father’s house with his daughters, which is really a damned shame as the place is clearly haunted as fuck. There are knocks at the door, but no one on the other side. Noises can be heard in closets and in the walls. A howling sound emanates from the barn located just in the distance. The fact that the grandfather has warned his family, in particular his grand-daughters, to stay away from the building makes things a little more suspicious. Just a smidge.
The elder daughter, Becca (Ella Schaefer), is desperate to escape not only the haunted house she finds herself in, but also the shackles of childhood and the slow decline of her father’s life. She hopes to stay with her older brother, Sam, although such accommodations aren’t really plausible as he’s a college student living in a dorm. And really, Sam’s dealing with his own set of issues right now; issues that he brings with him when he suddenly arrives at his grandfather’s house, supposedly only to wash some clothes and to check in on his grandfather’s health. His relationship with his own father is notably, if somewhat predictably, strained. Despite being his sisters’ hope of freedom, he would appear to be in no rush to leave. He is quite aware of the strange occurrences at his grandfather’s house, as well as the ominous nature of the barn.
Although they call in every scientific expert they can, no natural explanation is found for the sounds coming from the barn. While the family are not religious people, a priest is finally brought in to exorcise whatever spirit lives in the structure. The priest shows some disdain to the notion, openly stating that the family may have been influenced by too many horror films. However, this is merely a facade meant to keep the family calm. He knows that a powerful evil lives in the barn. He attempts to confront it, but even his immense faith breaks when he discovers just what the presence is. Unfortunately, the younger daughter, Eliza, has witnessed the entire scene.
With the malevolent entity revealed, the grandfather is forced to admit to a deal made by his family generations prior. The family would be given wealth and security in exchange for the sacrifice of a family member with each new generation. As Jon, who knew nothing of the pact, has made no sacrifice of his family members, he and his children are now paying the price with their recent misfortunes. Well, Jon’s recent misfortunes, that is. Fearful to follow in his father’s footsteps, Sam is now willing to continue the deal.
For the first act, Watch Over Us plays like a low-budget clone of “The Conjuring”, albeit one made for young adults (i.e. teenagers). While not something seasoned horror vets would bother with, this approach may have worked with younger, “casual fans” of horror. The notion of blood sacrifices and deals with ancient evils would surely have taken it off of Nickelodeon’s prime-time schedule, but it possibly may have been acceptable by Freeform standards. More than a few obscenities from an angry Jon firmly plant the film in “R-rated” territory. However, there had yet to be anything particularly scary or horrific presented on the screen, leaving me pondering as to what direction this film intended to go.
And then….. out came the giant CG demon claws!
Yes, folks! The barn is alive. Well, kinda. The demon living inside, which may or may not be THE Devil (no names given), is surely alive. I mean, the demon doesn’t move around or anything, but it talks and eats people and can grab you with those giant CG claws that I mentioned previously. Then again, it’s only able to do any of this if you are actually standing very near it. Which, in itself, is kind of a massive plot hole.
While the ultimate conflict of Watch Over Us is whether to kill a loved one in exchange for a life of wealth or actually having to work for a living, the main horror element is undoubtedly the demonic entity living in the barn. So, while the occasional swinging light fixture or banging on the walls at 3AM is surely a nuisance, it’s not going to kill you. And neither is the demon in the barn. That is, unless you walk right up to that bitch and ask it to.
A previously unmentioned uncle is brought into the mix, if only to help tie things up at the film’s ending. Honestly, this only serves to create more possible plotholes, although they really aren’t worth dwelling on. The piss poor CG effect on those demon claws? Now, that’s something to dwell on. Why do they look like dragon feet? Is Puff the Black Magic Dragon living in that thing?
The tone eventually takes another drastic shift, this time to one much more comedic. The uncle, also wealthy, uses his connections to call in a SWAT team to deal with the barn. The entire team is seen fleeing in terror as Jon and the uncle can only stand and watch, defeat written on their face. It’s a fitting attitude as the scene may be a metaphor for the film throwing in the towel, so to speak. By now, the pilot has abandoned the cockpit and we’re just spiraling towards the ocean below.
While it would be unfair to call Watch Over Us a horrible film, it is horribly unfocused. While most aspects of the film aren’t worth mentioning, the film does feature generally respectable performances overall. However, the film’s highlight is undoubtedly the performance of Avery Kristen Pohl as “Eliza”. While able to display Eliza’s scattered emotions with conviction, she also stands out as the film’s source of strength; the glue holding the family together. It’s also worth noting a slight resemblance to a young Jamie Lee Curtis, which seems fitting as her character grows in a manner not too unlike that of Laurie Strode in the first Halloween film.
Unfortunately, Watch Over Us is just too uneven in tone and approach, and far too riddled with (arguably minor) plotholes to be recommended. I wish I had a more fitting ending to this review, but I too threw in the towel a couple of paragraphs ago.
Watch Over Us is available on DVD from Wild Eye Releasing. Purchase on Amazon here!