There are some actors who should never, ever do horror films: Keanu Reeves is one of those. Consider the sampling of his work in horror...in Dracula he was silly and his accent kept wavering between "Englishman" and "Surfer Dude"; in River's Edge he was bland and bored-looking; and in this week's disaster, he just looks like he walked into the wrong audition. The disaster is called The Watcher.
We have James Spader as the hero, a washed-up profiler who is obsessed with catching Reeves, the killer. Spader's sometimes pretty good in this one, as it was made before his eyes started falling out of their sockets on The Practice. The dude has NOT aged well, is all I'm saying. Anyway, Reeves likes to observe and study his victims meticulously before the kill, even to the point of befriending them. He then sends pictures of them to Spader's character, just to yank his chain.
Right off the bat, this movie doesn't scare me. The first time we see Ted "Theodore" Logan--errr, I mean "Keanu", he's dancing around, prancing and shimmying in a way that made me double-check the Netflix sleeve, to verify that it wasn't a comedy. Thanks to this scene, I will now never be able to enjoy the song "Dragula". Thanks, Keanu. He's just not scary. Whenever he's onscreen, I expect Alex Winter to show up, so they can toss around a few "Excellent!"'s. I haven't found him scary since he tried Shakespeare. Geez.
And Spader's good, when he's subtle. But in some scenes, the guy is so busy chewing the scenery, I can see the bite-marks on the walls. As the profiler, he's certainly no William Petersen in Manhunter. Heck, he's not even up to par with LL Cool J in Mindhunters. Oh, and to round out the cast, we have Ernie "I was the black guy in Ghostbusters" Hudson as Spader's boss, and Marissa Tomei(an actress I usually find appealing, but she looks sickly in the early scenes in this role...maybe she WAS sick?) as Spader's shrink. See, Spader sees a shrink because the killer just keeps following him from city to city, sending him pictures and messages designed to keep him on the case. Spader's girlfriend/wife/whatever-who-cares was one of Keanu's victims, and it left Spader deeply troubled.
Reeves' first victim(in the film, at least) is a young clerk in an electronics store. He takes several pictures of her, which he then sends to Spader as clues. I wish every killer could be so thoughtful! Of course, by the time Spader sees the pictures, the girl is already captured by Keanu and murdered. He even calls Spader's 500-ton-looking cell phone when Spader examines the crime scene.
Oh, and that's the other thing: He's in constant contact with Spader. Always calls him to chat, follows him everywhere he goes--heck, they even nearly capture him at a Chinese restaurant, because Spader "senses" that he's outside watching.
The script is as generic as they get: we see scenes where Spader "views" the killer in visions; we get the obligatory "we know Spader is single and a workaholic, because his fridge has one vegetable, a can of beer, and a box of Arm & Hammer in it" scene(seriously, I'm a single guy, and I never have a problem remembering to buy basic groceries...Hollywood, can we PLEASE retire this dumb cliche?); there's even a scene where the cop inadvertantly comes face to face with his prey without ever realizing it. Not even 45 minutes in, I feel like I've seen this movie about a million times before!
*deep breath* So Keanu begins stalking his next victim, a homeless chick whom he charms by "waltzing" with her on the sidewalk. Um yeah, nothing abnormal about THAT. She seems to buy his act as a nice guy, and he sends several pics of her to Spader to re-motivate him. But the night of the planned murder, she decks Keanu and makes a run for safety. While she's trying not to get killed by Neo, Spader is canvassing the streets with her picture, asking for help in locating her.
Spader finally finds a guy who knows the girl, but he apparently wants her to die, because he runs away when he recognizes her in the photo. After a generic foot chase, Spader makes the guy take him to her "spot", the place she sleeps at nght. Of course, she's been running all this time, so she wouldn't necessarily still be RIGHT where he left her, but eh, whatever. Keanu has found her in her hiding place and strangled her with piano wire(another serial killer cliche...piano players must be the most dangerous guys alive), so it's a pretty moot point.
Spader and Reeves then engage in the most tedious foot- and car-chase in the history of films. They climb stairs, they run across rooftops, they ride around in stolen cars---when did this become Grand Theft Auto??? Someday I hope somebody takes this chase scene and sets it to "Yakkety Sax", that song used in "The Benny Hill Show". Get on that, YouTube!
This all culminates in an explosion at a gas station. Reeves escapes, but Spader goes home and suffers from one of his crippling migraines or something, because his boss finds him passed out in front of his neglected fridge. He's rushed into the hospital, where Marisa visits him, and we discover that Keanu has planted a hidden microphone on her. He listens to the recording of the hospital visit and decides to plan his endgame.
He abducts Marisa and the kidnapping is featured on the news. Spader then realizes how much she resembles the woman who was burnt to death previously. Checking himself out of the hospital, Spader goes to the cemetary the woman was buried at, and meets Keanu there. They discuss their past, and Keanu agrees to take Spader to see his damsel in distress.
He has her tied up in a warehouse, surrounded by fuel and explosives. Spader sits through the usual, long-winded exposition scene, then wounds Keanu. Of course this sets off a chain reaction of fire, sparks and the usual fireworks show, and as Keanu burns alive, Spader and Tomei escape by breaking a window and jumping. All 3 fall into the harbor these factories are always built near(in movies, at least), and as our heroes are fished out of the water, Keanu's corpse also is fetched, depriving me of even a half-assed attempt at a final scare. BOO! HISS!
Despite the simplistic approach, The Watcherwasn't as awful as most of the crap I watch. There was at least 1 cute victim(Jessie, the homeless chick), some good actors(Tomei and Hudson, mostly), and an average-ish body count(around 5, that we actually see--Keanu included--though supposedly Keanu killed many more as he moved from city to city). Not the best by far, but there are many that could be worse. 3 killer trees out of 5.
What has The Watcher left me with?
-Keanu should be a serial killer...he's so hard to take seriously, he'd probably get more victims than Jason and Freddy combined.\
-Marisa Tomei is like the girl in that one Seinfeld episode, the one where she looked super hot in some lighting, and a crone the rest of the time.
-Both Reeves and Spader went to the Shatner School of Dramatic Emoting. Ugh.
-Some homeless chicks are majorly HOT!
Next movie up is Mountaintop Motel Massacre, sometime in the middle of the week. Stay tuned!