Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Watch Me (2007)

We live in a world of spam attachments, viruses and other malicious content that comes through our email. Add to this the ever-accessible snuff films that circulate online, where anything and everything you can imagine is just a keystroke away. Low budget Australian film Watch Me has capitalized on this fear, spinning a very frightening story of one such file that circulates through people’s email accounts, manifesting itself as a vengeance-seeking ghost.

The "Watch Me" file contains a short but horrifying snuff film. Whoever opens and watches the film is met with death in the form of a pale, red-haired ghost. When Tess’ (Frances Marrington) friend Jill is violently killed and others who watch the film follow (including her boyfriend Jared), Tess sets out to solve the mystery of the "Watch Me" file. She enlists the help of local “freak boy,” Taku (writer and producer Sam Voutas), who is a sleazy dealer of illegal, rare and strange films and pornography. Taku has his own plans, though, and might be more dangerous to Tess than the ghostly redhead seeking revenge. Racing against the clock and Taku's ulterior motives, Tess scrambles to stop the "Watch Me" file from spreading to its next, unsuspecting victim.

The relevance of the film in this day and age only adds to the spookiness of the events unfolding on screen. The film works wonderfully on screen, with sure-fire directing, superb acting, a straight-forward storyline and plenty of creepy, tense scenes. It comes as a big surprise that this is director Melanie Ansley’s first feature film. The direction is so professional and clean that I though Ansley had at least a few other films under her belt before Watch Me!

Ansley, who also helped pen the script with Voutas, obviously took cues from Asian frightfests Ringu, Ju On and One Missed Call, but nonetheless ended up with a highly enjoyable film. Some of the scares will remind viewers of Ju On (or the bastardized American version The Grudge) as will the jerky movement of the red-haired ghost. The storyline feels much like Ringu (or American remake The Ring), but Watch Me manages to stand on its own and deliver a great film, regardless of similarities to Asian horror films.

As for the acting, it is top-notch, especially leads Marrington (playing Tess) and Voutas (playing Taku). Voutas’ Taku oozes creepiness and delivers a layered performance and Marrington manages to look and act natural while her character goes through many different emotions. Both actors manage to pull off their characters realistically, a real feat for most independent productions.

It helps that the script (again, written by Ansley and Voutas) is tight and the characters are all well-developed. The story is presented as very straight-forward and to the point with a few twists and turns to keep things interesting (yet, surprisingly always believable). It has solid pacing throughout, and though some might call it slow at times, its well worth your patience.

The ghost (played by Tanya McHenry) is very creepy in a Pippi-Longstocking-Gone-Bad kind of way. Her bright red hair, red-painted fingernails and yellow dress come into sharp contrast with her pale white skin. The physical look of the ghost differs very much from the typical black-haired, drably dressed ghosts that usually populate Asian horror. Don’t let her cheery dress fool you though; this girl is out for revenge against anyone who enjoys the "Watch Me" file! As an added bonus, the ghost pulls an Audition and is very handy with a needle and thread…

Watch Me is a tense, spooky film that has several wonderful scare scenes. The one that struck me the most was near the beginning, when a man who had just viewed the file sets about looking for his pet in the kitchen. Looking in the cabinets, he puts his hand on the counter to stand up…and the rest you just have to see yourself. Another great scene is where Tess is fumbling around in a darkened closet after following a trail of blood…you just know something is going to jump out! Or is it? Another scene shows Tess taking a relaxing bath…only she’s not alone. With so many great scenes, it’s hard to choose a favorite!

I also enjoyed the underlying social commentary in the film. It really makes you think about who and what are behind all the “homemade” films floating around the internet. The ready availability of anonymous snuff films and pornography over the internet to almost anyone is a frightening thought. The film is never preachy (not in the least!) but it does make you stop and think about the negative effects of pornography. Violence and degradation towards women in snuff and pornography films and their repercussions are also themes prevalent in the film. Overall, though, it is about a person’s pain and her retaliation against anyone who gets pleasure out of her suffering.

If you enjoy Asian horror or a good old fashioned ghost story (with a modern technology twist thrown in) I highly suggest you check out Watch Me.

Check out Watch Me's official site

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