The Blood Stream mines the Internet for horror gold so you don’t have to, delivering streamable horror titles never before featured on Dread Central. Occasionally I’ll dredge up something good, maybe even great. To find those gems, I’ll have to sift through a lot of breathtakingly bad cinema. Enjoy!
If you still haven’t gotten enough of Ringu clones, allow me to recommend a humble amateur knockoff you’ve probably never heard of: Watch Me.
The story is your basic viral video infected with a supernatural presence that kills anyone who watches it. But it’s totally not the same as The Ring at all because instead of a VHS cassette, this killer vid is an email attachment. TOTALLY DIFFERENT. Plus, rather than a montage of random avant-garde images this video is a snuff film. Yikers.
From the looks of the home video caliber recording I’d say Watch Me was made not more than a few years after writer/director Melanie Ansley graduated film school. But here at The Blood Stream we look beyond silly things like image quality and production values. At its heart Watch Me is more or less serviceable. It delivers scares when needed and has at least one or two memorable characters.
First there’s the ghost/creature/whatever, which looks an awful lot like a giant Raggedy Ann doll complete with bright red hair and pale skin. Given the rudimentary camera work and revealing lighting, this design should have been ridiculous. Yet somehow they just manage to pull it off. The actress who plays the crimson haired Bloody Mary thing does a decent job with her movement work, which really helps. There’s also a disturbing cracking sound when she ratchets herself upright. We’ve heard creaking ghost creatures before but if it ain’t broke…
Another excellent character — frankly one that could have been explored more fully — is the resident porn expert, Taku. See, the main character, Tess, is a film student. For her thesis she decides to write a paper on the power of the voyeur. (Of course she does.) She seeks the help of her classmate, Taku, who operates an off-the-books rare porn video store out of his house.
Sam Voutas, who co-wrote the script, plays Taku. He turns out to be one of the best parts of the whole show. His chinstrap beard and unibrow mix with a self-assured geek bravado to create the quintessential outcast in a position of authority. He clearly revels in the opportunity to share his niche wisdom even as he acts annoyed at Tess’s naive questions.
Taku’s encyclopedic knowledge of obscure porn means he knows all about the demonic video. This sets him up very naturally as the raisonneur, an archetype many films struggle to incorporate. Supernatural horror movies love to trot out a guy who can tell the heroes enough about the mystery to keep them in the game. But how on earth could anyone know so much? In Final Destination, for example, the Candyman shows up out of nowhere to explain that death itself is stalking the doomed teens to collect their overdue souls. Where did he learn all that crap?
Tacu’s porn acumen, on the other hand, is both plausible and central to his character. It gives him a legitimate advantage in the fight against the murderous spirit. It’s a shame more isn’t made of that. It might have been nice to see him use his skeezy underworld connections to trace the source of the video or suss out its meaning. At least he never tries to “hack” his way to the answer. The movie cliché of computer hacking as the solution to all problems is a blight on humanity. I blame Jurassic Park.
Far from a computer genius, Taku gets it in his head that by disabling the most recent victim’s computer he can stop the email virus from spreading. Never mind that the file still exists on every other victim’s computer, not to mention the copy the police burned to a CD. Australians are pretty friendly. Maybe Australian computer viruses are kind enough to only infect one computer at a time?
Like a copied videotape, Watch Me is a wobbly reproduction of better movies like The Ring and several years late to the party to boot. It has zero budget, amateur actors, and a fundamental misunderstanding of how computers work. Nevertheless, it’s not remotely horrible. The whole thing is kept nice and contained and wraps up in about 85 minutes. Though its thoroughly derivative it has some interesting ideas and a few decent scares. If you’re hard up and you like this sort of thing, you may want to check out Watch Me. Or you could wait until I post a YouTube video of my face while I was viewing it titled, “Watch Me Watch Watch Me”. Clever!
In the meantime, just go ahead and watch Ju-on again. I would say watch Ringu but it isn’t available on Amazon Prime. Ju-on probably influenced Watch Me just as much anyway.
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