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First Look Review - WHO'S WATCHING OLIVER

WHO'S WATCHING OLIVER review
Influenced by his domineering mother, a young man abducts a series of female victims.







Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Richie Moore

Starring: Russell Geoffrey Banks, Sara Malakul Lane, Margaret Roche, Cecilia Belletti

WHO'S WATCHING OLIVER poster

Oliver is a troubled man. And that’s something horror films revel in - troubled men; from Psycho to Wolf Creek to The Hitcher, it’s been their bread and butter for some time now.

Who’s Watching Oliver takes this well-worn trope and runs with it, with mixed results.

Oliver’s substantial medication routine at the opening of this film alone gives rise to some serious misgivings, as does his tendency to mumble to himself.

He takes time out to Skype with Mumsy, who enquires after his non-existent love life, before bedding for the night.

WHO'S WATCHING OLIVER

The next morning, Oliver is all brylcreemed hair and fussy habits; his fastidious morning ritual gives us a glimpse into his very mannered mind, with the various broken mirrors giving us a further message about his fractured sense of self.

He is thrust into the harsh Thailand marketplace that cradles his stately home like a man out of his own time, the incongruity of the ever-present jaunty jazz soundtrack creating a feeling of oddness.

Later that night, still keeping his own narrative with a steady dialogue with and about himself, he manages to get the fortitude to approach a girl at a local nightclub.

A gormless and literal mouth breather, his intensity and strangeness makes it hard to believe any woman would even consider going home with him, but of course she does, with the promise of “drugs” as a tempter.

The tattooed girl doing lines off his mother's portrait is a little on the nose, but seeing as mother dearest likes to be involved in all aspects of her sick son's violent actions, I guess it’s appropriate.

It seems Oliver is tormented and ‘controlled’ by a mother far worse than Norman’s projected Mrs Bates; Oliver’s mama being a foul-mouthed sadist who seems to be channelling ‘Baby Jane’ in the looks department but is a vicious and cruel psychopath.

WHO'S WATCHING OLIVER

Of course, soon he’s met catalytic ‘nice’ girl Sophia down at the park. She randomly tells him about her dreams and before you know it he’s crushing on her and dressing to attract.

She gifts him with a bracelet and they have a lovely date where he glimpses a normal life and realises it’s what he wants.

But mother is too strong. Oliver's efforts to defy her and give up his life of rape and murder is a struggle the film allows us to see without making him too much of a sympathetic character - that would be offensive and undeserved.

Sophia shares stories of her cult background and Oliver realises she has her own broken history, which allows him to believe maybe they can find some ‘love’ together.

But mother wants to meet the girlfriend, and that can only mean more suffering for all.

WHO'S WATCHING OLIVER

First, the good stuff. The blood and gore is effective and believable, which is important in a serial killer film. I appreciated the character development at work here; the attempts to flesh out the three main protagonists work well and definitely invest you into their stories. The acting is well above average with Russell Geoffrey Banks as the titular Oliver and Margaret Roche as Mama both giving jaw dropping balls-to-the-wall performances. The script by director Richie Moore, Raimund Huber and Russell Geoffrey Banks is intriguingly nasty, and the Thai setting is unique to this type of English-speaking film. Also, the cat survives, so I’m a happy camper there.

The problem I have is with some of the more gratuitous upskirt shots and way too much one-sided female nudity. I find women cast as sexual scenery, particularly with the added violence, quite abhorrent. The ‘male-gaze’ fetishising of artfully arranged perfect-bodied naked dead women reeks of exploitation and ruins, for this reviewer at least, what could have been a decent hard-edged psychological horror. As it is, I cannot recommend it highly, based on the lack of restraint and care shown by the filmmakers.

Who's Watching Oliver is in US cinemas July 3rd. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.



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