I understand why people would be frightened by Who’s Watching Oliver (especially young women), but how come the production felt the need to squander their potential on such junky thrills?
Russell Geoffrey Banks stars as Oliver, a peculiar brit living in Thailand. Oliver’s meticulous symptoms and habits such as daily timed routines suggest that the character may be struggling with an intellectual and emotional disability, but we learn Oliver’s torment runs deeper than that initial diagnosis. At night, Oliver cruises clubs and picks up women who are severely intoxicated or are tempted by Oliver’s handouts (one girl is lured with hard drugs that are stashed at his place). It only takes a few minutes for the stranger to realize that they’re in danger as Oliver introduces them to his cruel mother via video chat. By then, it’s too late to escape considering they’ve been drugged, tied up, and assaulted by Oliver in front of his mother, and are soon murdered in a grisly fashion.
Who’s Watching Oliver is an extremely brutal movie, catered to the toughest horror hounds. But, they too will eventually recoil from the film’s degree of disgust. Previously serving as a camera operator on multiple mainstream hits, Richie Moore makes his feature film debut by setting a low bar in taste, and a high watermark in terms of apathy and relentless violence.
Moore and Banks want their audience to feel empathy for Oliver (they both co-wrote the movie with Raimund Huber), but the character is badly drawn. Oliver is sickened by torturing women (as he should be), but he feels compelled to follow his mother’s psychotic orders due to their past together. However with Oliver living in Thailand and Mom living comfortably in the UK, there’s nothing stopping Oliver from disconnecting calls or fooling his mom into thinking he’s ruthless. Oliver may be mentally unstable, but he’s smart enough to know when something feels wrong, which means he could figure out a way out of this mess without the help of a lame romance between him and potential victim Sophia (Sara Malakul Lane). Who’s Watching Oliver also displays maimed women without any sympathy, and matters get worse if they are shown naked. A murder montage towards the end is beyond the pale.
Who’s Watching Oliver got under my skin with gruesome visuals, but not through its narrative. The only other thing that genuinely scared me was observing how cold these filmmakers can be towards their characters and their audience.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie