Who’s Watching Oliver is a strange movie title, the answer to which comes quite soon. This is a bloody, unsettling and extreme horror, which is creepy, disturbing and grisly. Like a prequel to Psycho, Oliver lures woman back to his apartment in order to have his way with him, obeying his mother’s wishes. The cold, calculated and regulated manner with which he carries out his killing spree, is reminiscent of American Psycho. While the setting, intensely dark mood and penchant for blood and torture, have parallels with Only God Forgives.
While an independent film, shot on a low budget, the filmmakers show their experience with cinematographer turned director, Richie Moore, delivering his debut feature film. The dexterity of the cinematography and Moore’s ability to keep you transfixed, despite some repetitive scenarios, is quite inspiring. Deftly moving around Oliver, shifting between his apartment and a fairground, Who’s Watching Oliver keeps you on your toes with its manic tone and wicked ability to walk the tightrope between horror and romantic comedy.
“Mama, just killed a woman…”
It’s a bizarre concept, which is brought to life and grounded thanks to compelling performances. While employing a serial killer narrative, it’s quite refreshing, using upbeat music and blending light and dark elements to carry the uneasy marriage of horror and romance. You’re shocked by the behaviour and yet sympathetic towards the tortured soul at the heart of it all.
Russell Geoffrey Banks, as if channeling the Kray brothers, delivers a solid performance with his eyes framed by glasses, his hair gelled back and sporting an unassuming, nerdy look. Drifting from victim to perpetrator and back again, he manages to keep the thread with a Revenge of the Nerds vulnerability. Sara has good screen presence, a beautiful and somewhat mysterious girl managing to keep the lid on a typical yet somewhat eccentric romantic interest. Oliver’s mother played by Margaret Roche, deserves a special mention, turning in a seething supporting performance with sickly gusto, an uneasy and challenging role to fulfill.
While the genre play is refreshing, the story relies quite heavily on echoes and a maddening cycle. Using its resources wisely, focusing on the performances and generating tension through its twisted contrasts Who’s Watching Oliver manages to concoct a devilishly playful atmosphere. Terrifying at times, relentless and seemingly unable to break out, one starts to feel just as helpless and trapped as Oliver himself. While bloody, intense and unsettling, one is compelled and entertained, a fly-on-the-wall of a ghastly yet unassuming serial killer’s apartment.
While Who’s Watching Oliver does have misogynistic tendencies, we’re dealing with a Jack the Ripper style killer and while the film seems exploitative at times, reveling in its twisted playground, it’s reluctant to take pleasure in its sexual violence and gruesome murders. Amazingly, the perpetrator manages to siphon our empathy despite his evil actions as we root for him to overcome his domineering mother and find love.
Going through these hellish scenarios will haunt you long after the credits roll. It’s probably one of the most bizarre and extreme films you’ll ever see, showcasing a wealth of talent and demonstrating a good understanding of the genre. Most viewers will struggle to stomach the grim psychological horror at play, but for horror aficionados, this is a gory and surprisingly entertaining treat with an emotional hook – destined for cult status.
The film’s repetitive nature, several montages and contemporary soundtrack make it loopy and the post-credits scene changes the overall tone, flip-flopping between genres in the 11th hour. Despite its flaws, it’s a brave, sharp, thrilling, creepy and refreshingly different serial killer film. Walking a taut line, it remains edgy and will appeal to fans of Psycho, American Psycho and Only God Forgives for its apologetic brutality, raw intensity and manic disposition.
The bottom line: Intense