Keep Watching (2017)
★ / ★★★★
Perhaps the title of Sean Carter’s film is a desperate plea to the audience because there is absolutely no reason to continue watching the film, let alone start it, other than to see how the story would end. Predictably, it ends like a most generic modern horror picture by shamelessly setting up room for a sequel that is likely never going to happen. In other words, it exists solely to steal money from the viewer; the craft and the love for the genre simply isn’t there. Here is a piece of work that gets every fundamental element completely wrong. It is an example of how not to tell an engaging, creative, and suspenseful horror-thriller.
One of its most egregious misstep is its lack of love for and understanding of its protagonists. For a home invasion horror-thriller, it is natural that we be on the side of those hoping to make it through the night. But this film is most pessimistic, almost heartless, and I found its brazen display of apathy for its characters to be, quite frankly, really disgusting.
The heroine is Jamie (Bella Thorne) and she is having a difficult time with moving on from her mother’s death—even though her passing had occurred six years ago. Jamie is still having nightmares; her trauma is exacerbated by the fact that her father (Ioan Gruffudd) has married a much younger woman (Natalie Martinez) who is closer to Jamie’s age than her father’s. While the screenplay by Joseph Dembner presents a potential dramatic core, one by which the heroine could use as fire or motivation, to fight the intruders, to fight for her family and for herself, it fails to explore Jamie’s depression and anger. As a result, the character does not undergo a convincing evolution.
There is a dearth of creativity in its gimmick. These home invaders’ modus operandi is broadcasting their crimes online. When a family is away, they break into the house and install cameras at most unlikely places. Viewers online assume that what they are seeing is either fake or just another horror film. The gimmick sets up a potentially potent social commentary. However, the screenplay once again does absolutely nothing to turn potential into actuality. In the middle of the picture, I was convinced the writer is simply lazy.
But keep watching indeed and one realizes that the filmmakers have no understanding of how horror films work. Even before the so-called scares are delivered, the look of the images are murky and flat. With the story taking place inside of the house for the majority of the picture’s running time, nearly everything looks uninteresting. It creates no sense of foreboding, let alone a feeling of claustrophobia. Even the teenagers’ bedrooms offer no personality. Take notice of the type of lighting utilized. It offers no intrigue or mystery. I imagine if this film were being played at midnight on television, it would work better than taking a sleeping pill. The images are truly that nondescript.
There is no scare to be had in “Keep Watching” other than when one realizes how awful it is. Each setup for a masked figure to appear suddenly in the shadows is predictable and contrived. Every opportunity that characters take to get help ends in failure. Even the score, when it does make an appearance, is an affront to the eardrums. Still, despite such an especially intolerable experience this film offers, I attempt to come up with at least one positive comment about it. Here it is: at least the movie is in focus.