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How does this Stalker thriller end?

When Maika MonroeThe acting career took off in 2014 with the hit horror movie It follows, it seemed that the actress was on her way to stardom. Instead, she chose a different path, building an impressive resume with great short films such as Bad guys And My half. Maybe the best thing she’s done in years is last year Observer, a thriller with Monroe at its center as a woman stalked by a serial killer. Although films with this premise have been made many times, Observer is something different, clinging to its star with a quiet performance that begins slowly, the tension gradually building throughout, until the disconcerting ending that won’t leave your memory anytime soon. Written and directed by Chloe Okuno in his first feature, Watcher, an important film for men and women.

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‘The Watcher’ begins as a story about loneliness and possible paranoia

Image via IFC films

A lot of Observer centered on loneliness, as Maika Monroe plays Julia, who was an actress in America, but is now a fish out of water in her new home in Budapest, Romania, where her husband Francis (Karl Glusman) works after a transfer. Julia is lost, unable to speak the language of her husband’s new colleagues, while being so far from her real home and past career. Her husband and friends tell the story of The Spider, a serial killer on the loose who kills young women around Budapest and then cuts off their heads.

While Francis is away all day at work, Julia is stuck in their apartment with nothing to do. She is a lonely woman, trying to learn the language, walking around the city alone during the day. One night, through the large bay window of their bedroom, she sees a shadow watching her from the window of the building opposite. When she is out, Julia can feel someone watching her. Tension mounts as a woman near her home is murdered. An interview with a survivor evokes the feeling of being observed before being attacked.

RELATED: ‘Watcher’ Review: Maika Monroe Balances Fear and Terror in Stalker Thriller | Sundance 2022

Back in town, Julia can always sense that someone is watching her as well. She tries to ditch anyone following her to a movie theater, but when someone sits right behind her, Julia goes to a supermarket. The same person enters behind her soon after and Julia tries to hide from him in the aisles. She manages to hide behind a door and get a good look at his face, but luckily he doesn’t see her. Julia tells Francis what happened later that day and asks him to go to the supermarket for them to review their footage of the incident. Although a man can indeed be seen crawling slowly behind Julia, Francis dismisses this as a coincidence and concludes that Julia is simply stressed by her new surroundings.

Our heroine’s fears turned out to be right

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Image via IFC Midnight

That night, Julia sees the dark figure watching her again from across the street. Is it the same man who followed her to the store? We cannot tell. Julia is brave enough to wave at him, and to her horror and ours, he waves at her. She does not exaggerate. Julia now has proof that the man is watching her. She calls the cops about it, and they go to the building to talk to the person who lives there, a man named Daniel Weber, played by the great English actor Burn Gormanbut nothing comes of it.

Julia is convinced that he is The Spider serial killer everyone is talking about, so she takes matters into her own hands the next day and knocks Daniel down by following him. She watches him walk into a strip club called The Museum. Julia enters the club, where she discovers that Irina (Madalina Anea), her neighbor and only friend, is a dancer there. She also sees Daniel, who works there at the same time as a janitor.

That night, Julia hears strange noises coming from Irina’s apartment, where she lives alone. Looks like a struggle is ensuing. Worried, Julia knocks on Irina’s door, but no one answers. She asks a neighbor with a key to let her in, but when they enter Irina’s apartment, no one is there. Again, Francis ignores her concerns. You might start to wonder if Julia is really imagining things, but then Irina’s ex-boyfriend Cristian (Daniel Nuta), tells Julia that he was supposed to meet Irina the night before, but she never came home from work. Julia is certain that her watcher did something to Irina, so she asks Cristian to accompany her across the street and confront Daniel themselves. Cristian knocks on Daniel’s door, but no one answers. After Cristian leaves, and now alone, Julia also tries to knock on the door. This time someone answers, but instead of Daniel, it’s an old man. Later that evening, the cops show up at Francis and Julia’s apartment with Daniel in tow. He called them about Julia, who he says is stalking him. Daniel explains himself and even if she is very uncomfortable, forces Julia to shake her hand.

Some time later, after making fun of a party she is going to with her husband, Julia gives up and takes the subway home. In his almost empty car is Daniel. He looks at her, then even gets up and walks towards her. He apologizes for scaring her, saying he’s not a bad person, just a lonely man caring for his sick father. Julia doesn’t believe him, and now she has another reason to be very suspicious, because he carries with him a bag that could contain a human head inside.

Frightened, she gets off the subway and almost runs home. When she walks into her apartment, she begins to pack, ready to leave behind this stalker and the people who don’t believe her but laugh at her. Then Julia hears the sound of music in Irina’s apartment next door. She knows she shouldn’t, but she has to investigate. She breaks into Irina’s apartment and suddenly this slow-burning thriller turns into a total horror movie. Irina is home, or at least what’s left of it, as her headless body is waiting to be discovered. Daniel jumps out from behind her and puts a bag over her head, causing her to pass out. When she wakes up, Daniel is there watching her. He confesses to being the spider and how he even hid in the closet with Irina when Julia looked inside the apartment a few days earlier.

‘The Watcher’ shows how far a woman has to go to protect herself

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Image via Sundance

It seems there is no way to escape, but just then Julia hears Francis arriving home after the party. She tries to scream, but Daniel slits her throat with a knife. It’s not a minor injury. Julia squirts blood. She struggles to reach the gun she knows Irina keeps in the apartment, but she can’t get there. His world darkens under the gaze of the observer.

We now move on to Francis in the apartment he shares with Julia. He sees his mobile phone put down but not of Julia. Francis calls her and hears the telephone ringing in the neighboring apartment. When he steps out into the hallway, Daniel exits through Irina’s door. They look at each other, and as we wait for Francis to finally defend his wife, shots ring out and Daniel falls to the ground dead. Standing behind him is Julia, somehow still alive, but covered in blood. She came to, found Irina’s gun, and faced her attack on her own. She gives Francis a weak but annoyed look, as if trying to tell him all of this with her eyes alone. The film ends there. We don’t know if Julia lives or dies. If she survives, we know she will leave Budapest as soon as possible.

The film works on many levels beyond being a thriller with a simple story of a harassed woman. It’s about what so many women go through, being watched in such an uncomfortable way, whether by a serial killer or just a man who doesn’t understand boundaries. It also shows us how when women talk about how they are treated by men, we are quick to dismiss it and disbelieve them, even going so far as to turn the woman on and make her feel crazy. It can come from a distraught, self-absorbed husband, or from society as a whole. Finally, as the director said so fiercely in the last scene, if all else fails and no one believes or stands up for you, a woman is strong enough to handle her abuser alone if she has to, or with him. Help from a friend going through the same thing, because it’s her dead friend’s gun that saves her. In the end, Julia is right, but at what cost? She must lose everything, not just her life, but possibly her marriage as well, just to prove herself in a world that is quickly looking away.


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