Beware the Watcher, 3.5 readers. He or she (or they) might be watching you!
BQB here with a review of this ultra creepy Netflix series.
If you’re looking for the perfect scary TV show this Halloween season, look no further than The Watcher. Your occult side will cringe at a plot ripe with blood drinking cults, ritual murders, and psychopaths galore. However, if you do not fear such silly stories, then surely your adult side will cringe as every homeowner’s worst nightmare comes true – i.e. when what they thought was a sound real estate investment loses its resale value and can only be sold at a substantial loss. In today’s real estate market? We’ll never be able to afford another nice home in a neighborhood with such picturesque views and good schools, access to quaint shopping centers and don’t even get me started about these beautiful countertops! EEEEK!
Such is the fate of the Brannock family, a clan of trendy Manhattanites who yearn to leave the dangers of the crime ridden big city and stretch out in the stately, beautiful home at 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey. At first, Dean and Nora (Bobby Cannavale and Naomi Watts) believe all their dreams have come true, only to have them dashed when they start receiving a series of anonymous, threatening letters signed only by “The Watcher.”
The highlights of The Watcher’s claims? That he comes from a long line of watchers. His grandfather and father have been watching 657 Boulevard since the early 1900s and now it’s his turn. The creepy threatening letters go on to claim that the Watcher is watching the kids, that he’ll call to him when he learns their names, and that the house needs blood. Yikes. Not exactly the welcome to the neighborhood any family is looking for.
And thus, the Brannocks go down the most unsavory of rabbit holes as they attempt to unravel the mystery of who the heck this mysterious watcher is. They liquidated their 401Ks just to afford the down payment on this stinking mansion, after all, so they aren’t going to lose their equity without a fight! (You younger non-homeowners might balk at this notion but seriously, once you’ve cobbled together enough money to put a down payment on your first home, you’ll stop wondering why so many homeowners in movies and TV refuse to leave a house even after they find out it is infested with ghosts, goblins, werewolves, zombies, barracudas, sharks with laser beams on their heads, chainsaw maniacs or impolite time share salesmen. I’m sorry but we’re not going back to renting or, yeesh, living with our parents, just so murderous monsters can unleash mayhem on our dime, thank you very much.)
The plot thickens as the neighborhood harbors a seemingly endless cornucopia of yahoos, weirdos and malcontents, each with their own grudge against the Brannocks, largely over the fact that they were able to afford such a luxurious home that everyone in the hard to buy into yet highly desired neighborhood can’t afford. Possible watcher suspects include a laundry list of jealous neighbors, jilted bidders who also wanted to buy the property, greedy real estate agents, unhelpful cops, an eccentric private detective, a young alarm system installer crushing on the family’s teenage daughter, an architecture loving teacher, a historic society that believes it can dictate whatever you do in your home right down to your every sneeze, a suspected blood sucking cult believed to be operating in the area, the perpetrator of a gruesome murder long thought to be on the run but who has now returned, a mentally challenged neighbor who really like’s the house’s dumb waiter and…honestly, I forget. There are at least ten or twenty more suspects I’m missing.
Perhaps that’s the scariest element of this story. The Brannocks are the victims of a crime, yet with no smoking gun, no clue that blows the case wide open, they are left hopelessly chasing their tail between their legs, running round and around, yanking one thread after another but never quite getting anywhere. Everyone is a potential suspect, preventing them to ever feel safe making friends in their new community.
Sure, there is some unlikely silliness. The couple embarrasses themselves often when they pull an “aha!” out of their butts and public hurl accusations at random townsfolk who quickly make them feel like crap when they share a glossed over fact that proves their innocence. The Brannocks quickly agree to stop jumping to conclusions and to never again publicly confront a suspect until they have the hardcore, unvetted and undeniable proof so as to not embarrass themselves or others only to do the old, “Aha! It was you!” routine of public embarrassment again and again.
Meanwhile, forget the part above where I said a good homeowner will never leave their equity investment, psychos and monsters be damned. Eh, the silliness abounds when pets are murdered, mysterious videos emerge showing an unidentified party in the house while the family sleeps, a secret tunnel is found and a blurry figure is seen running into it yet strangely never boarded the eff up, all these and more signs of foul play afoot in the house yet the family never abandons the property. They do rent a motel to escape the creepiness, but the dad usually remains because, damn it, we must preserve equity!!!
In truth, once you get beyond all the frights and chills, the real villain might be the American real estate market. A family feels the need to keep up with the Joneses by purchasing a dream home, the down payment on takes up all their reserve funds, meaning if something goes wrong, they’ll never be able to keep up with the payments and expenses and will be ruined if forced to re-sell at a loss. Sure, they could have bought a smaller home, but they really like this one and fear they’ll never find another like it again. Meanwhile, the highly competitive real estate bidding process leaves buyers angry when they are left out in the cold. Even further meanwhile, covetous neighbors who are used to your property looking a certain way get angry when you change it.
If you think this show is creepy, feel free to read about the real-life story the series is inspired by.
Check out the New Yorker article here:
I read the article and while the real-life Broadus family didn’t encounter a list of potential suspects who were anywhere near as wacky as the embellished Netflix series, they did undergo the horror of finding their dream home, only to have their dreams dashed when they received scary watcher letters. They attempted to figure out who said watcher was only for an investigation into myriad suspects to go nowhere. Alas, they never moved into their dream home and had to sell it at a substantial $400,000 loss five years later, without even ever living there.
The scariest thing of all? Lost equity. EEEEK!
Bonus points to Bobby Cannavale, he who typically plays tough guy cops and crooks but plays against type as a typical nerdy upper class suburban dad here. Naomi Watts does fine as the upper class suburban mom though one wonders just how many upper class suburban moms/struggling artists there are.
SPOILER ALERT: (Look away if you want no spoilers.)
The in-show Brannocks never definitively find out who the Watcher is, just as the real-life Broadus family never did either. The mystery was never solved and you might experience angina as the show hurls an endless supply of schmucks and weirdos, each with their own motive, only for the undeniable “gotcha, you totally did it and here’s the undeniable proof!” moment to never happen. Sadly, we’ll never know who the Watcher was, what was their grudge with the family and what was the point of all those creepy letters?