Watch Me (2006)
By: Paul Ryan on January 10, 2008  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Director: Melanie Ansley
Starring: Frances Marrington, Sam Voutas, Glen Hancox, Katrina J. Keily, Tanya McHenry
Screenplay: Melanie Ansley, Sam Voutas
Country: Australia
Running time: 78 minutes
Film studies student Tess (Frances Marrington) is working on a thesis exploring notions of voyeurism in cinema. She is aided in her research by fellow student Jill (Katrina J. Kiely) who has come into possession of a clutch of extreme underground films supplied by creepy oddball Taku (co-writer/co-producer/editor Sam Voutas) who deals in rare and transgressive cinema. It just so happens that at the same time a spam email is going around which depicts the gruesome murder of a young redhead (Tanya McHenry). Whenever the video is opened and viewed, the viewer soon meets an ugly demise at the hands of the redhead. Now this email reaches Tess and Jill, and there are predictably gruesome consequences…

It gives this reviewer no pleasure to speak ill of a local indie project, but sadly there's plenty wrong with Watch Me, an ultra-low budget, Melbourne-made horror opus. Competently shot (on digital video), well-edited, and featuring some effective sound design, this film is weighed down by a script full of truly awful expositional dialogue and frequently stupid character behaviour. Worse still, the script's central horror conceit (a cursed video) is bodily lifted from the Ring series. As if to underline the blatant imitation at work, the deadly, alabaster-skinned spectre that comes from the video looks, acts and moves almost exactly like Ringu's Sadako. It may be explained away as homage - the spectre is even named Sadie! - but there's a fine line between homage and rip-off, and far too often Watch Me tips over into the latter category.

It may be churlish to criticize the acting in such a hand-made enterprise, but the majority of the performances are painfully amateurish. It can be taken as a given that when you're working in such an ultra-low budget medium, you have to make the best with what you have. Still, practically none of the performances are believable, particularly two detective characters who might well be the most unconvincing cops in screen history. A prologue filmed in Beijing adds very little to the proceedings, particularly as it is followed by a scene that covers more or less the same ground.

Outside of a few festival screenings, Watch Me has yet to receive wide distribution. Whilst heavily flawed, it would still be a shame for the film to disappear into the ether. Technically, Watch Me bodes well for director Melanie Ansley. Whilst her script (co-written with Voutas) is problematic, she clearly knows where to place the camera and creates some occasionally effective visuals. Given time, better financing and more confidence, we might yet see some genuinely impressive things from her as a filmmaker.
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