The found-footage horror-comedy “They’re Watching” imagines what would happen if a “House Hunters International"-style reality show brought crews to a spooky old Eastern European village, populated by unfriendly locals and ancient evil. But the movie doesn’t do justice to a promising premise. A scarcity of laughs and scares limits this property’s curb appeal.
Writer-directors Micah Wright and Jay Lender — two first-time feature-filmmakers who cut their teeth on Nickelodeon and Disney animated series — barely maintain the illusion that what they’re presenting is “real.” Though the actors improvise a lot of the dialogue, they’re polished and attractive in ways that don’t scream “documentary.”
The cast is also meant to be more fleshed-out than the average first-person horror victims, though that means Wright and Lender have written them as generic young hotties rather than complete blanks.
Despite its more professional sheen, “They’re Watching” still succumbs to some of the worst traits of the found-footage mockumentary. The movie waits until almost halfway through its running time before introducing anything even remotely exciting. In the interim, characters goof around, shooting the kind of random, shaky footage — ruined by incessant chatter — that could never be used in a TV home improvement show.
Ultimately, the most frustrating thing about “They’re Watching” is that Wright and Lender quickly abandon the “‘House Hunters’ goes wrong” idea and end up making a straightforward, special-effects-driven supernatural thriller — albeit with terrible camera angles and not much of a script.
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica, and AMC Burbank Town Center 8. Also on VOD.