The Watchers: A Unique Path Forged by Ishana Shyamalan

The name Shyamalan has become synonymous with polarizing cinema, evoking strong reactions from audiences who either eagerly anticipate the twisty storytelling or dread the simplistic or ridiculous twists they’ve experienced in the past. M. Night Shyamalan, known for his signature style, has passed the torch to his daughter Ishana, who makes her feature directorial debut with The Watchers. The question on everyone’s mind: Will she follow in her father’s footsteps or carve out her own distinct path in the world of filmmaking?

Plot Overview

The Watchers takes us to an extensive forest in Western Ireland, where a young artist named Mina, portrayed by Dakota Fanning, finds herself stranded. Seeking shelter in a peculiar concrete and glass structure, Mina becomes trapped alongside three strangers, all of whom are stalked by mysterious creatures each night. The film, based on A.M. Shine’s book and adapted by Ishana Shyamalan, is steeped in an eerie and foreboding atmosphere.

Atmosphere and Setting

From the outset, The Watchers excels in creating a shadowy, forbidding aura. The seemingly never-ending forest, with its dense canopy that allows minimal sunlight to penetrate, sets the stage for a story that is as much about the internal struggles of the characters as it is about the external threats they face. The occupants of the “coupe,” as the structure is called, are forced to scavenge for supplies, adding to the overall sense of unease and desperation.

Character Dynamics

Dakota Fanning’s Mina is the central character through whom the audience learns about the others: Georgina Campbell’s compassionate yet melancholy character, Oliver Finnegan’s skittish and slightly unhinged young man, and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson’s Meline, the longest resident of the coupe who provides some background lore. The interactions between these characters, particularly the conflicting values and motivations between Mina and Meline, drive much of the film’s tension.

Narrative and Themes

The film’s narrative is marked by a quiet intensity, with scenes often depicting the characters in silent contemplation or uneasy sleep, casting a tone of loneliness and surrender. This mounting hopelessness feels genuine and earned, even as the story briskly moves along its 102-minute runtime. The film doesn’t dwell excessively on monotonous inaction, instead ensuring that even the quieter moments are imbued with purpose and meaning.

The Watchers and the Audience

A particularly intriguing element of The Watchers is its exploration of the titular creatures. While there is a palpable sense of dread about what lurks outside the coupe, the film cleverly mirrors this with the audience’s own voyeuristic tendencies. We, the viewers, become Watchers ourselves, blurring the lines between observer and participant.

Cinematic Techniques

Ishana Shyamalan demonstrates impressive skill in her use of camera work, particularly within the mirrored walls of the coupe. The reflections are used to capture reactions and convey a sense of claustrophobia and tension without ever revealing the film crew, a feat reminiscent of the mirrored scenes in the Suspiria remake.

Critiques and Final Thoughts

Despite its strengths, The Watchers does falter in some areas. The exposition dumps, while helpful in understanding the lore, can feel overly simplistic and redundant. This detracts from the overall experience, as it sometimes underestimates the audience’s ability to piece together the narrative on their own. Additionally, the decision to show more of the Watchers than necessary diminishes the fear of the unknown, which could have been more effective if left to the imagination.

However, these critiques do not overshadow the film’s achievements. The Watchers is a solid debut for Ishana Shyamalan, showcasing her ability to create a tense, atmospheric thriller that is both efficient and engaging. The characters, while compelling, could benefit from deeper exploration of their psychological states, but the film’s immersive experience and impressive visual techniques make it a noteworthy entry in the genre.


The Watchers is a promising start for Ishana Shyamalan, demonstrating her potential to diverge from her father’s storytelling tendencies and establish her own unique voice in cinema. While it may not reach the heights of some of her father’s most famous works, it stands as a testament to her burgeoning talent and sets the stage for what could be an exciting career ahead.

Rating: 3 out of 5 couches

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