Watch Me (2015)
Starring Nick Jandl, Bethany Pollock, Ben Samuels
Directed by Ben Samuels
To offer something outstanding in your first directorial foray is quite the task – to offer a passable product is seemingly more within reach, and to lay an egg is unfortunately becoming more of a mainstay with many filmmakers’ initial voyage into celluloid waters. In the case of director Ben Samuels (Kantemir), I was offered a chance to check out his very first stab at laying it down, movie-style, with his first feature that he directed directly after graduating college – Watch Me.
The film sets up like many before it – a small group of friends decide in their infinite boredom, to take a long drive to an abandoned insane asylum for a little videotaping (have I already mentioned that this is found-footage format)? In any event, our crack filmmaker is John (portrayed by Samuels himself) in an ultimately creepy role – his ability to never stop filming is only rivaled by his innate talent of catching people in some embarrassing situations with his camera – the man has no shame, and it weighs on his cronies. Oh yeah, there’s another small detail I forgot to mention – John never had any intention of letting his pals know about their destination until they reached it…almost like he’s got another plan in mind, huh? Cautions aplenty are issued about what went on at the asylum before its closing from an even creepier gas station owner (Neil Samuels) – workers abusing mentally unstable patients with evil experiments and torture tactics – hell, after that description, I was ready to make the drive myself!
So the idea of acting against their better inner feelings works like a charm, and the group heads off to investigate the dilapidated former sanitarium, and not before long does the weirder-than-weird occurrences begin to occur – mysterious scribblings are on every wall and floor leading into and out of the asylum, and soon their own vehicle becomes a vandal’s blank slate with a warning to simply “leave.” As the show moves along, members of the party are getting picked off, and we’re sinking deeper and deeper into a mystery surrounding the structure that unfolds around us rather nicely, and Samuels holds it all together with his performance – his looks will be sure to reel in the ladies, while chiseling stone-cold chills down the fellas’ backs. He is solidly planted as the 5th wheel in the mix of friends, and backed up by equally solid performances, most notably Nick Jandl from ABC’s Nashville.
The look of the film doesn’t rely solely on the first person aspect (thankfully), and the dark inner workings of the asylum are complimented by more than a handful of outdoor shots to break up the monotony. Samuels also knows how to mix up the story as well, not overselling the whole “haunted nuthouse” theme, and infusing some interesting twists and turns towards the movie’s conclusion. While this was admittedly shot on a micro-budget, it has the look and feel of a certified indie-hair-raiser, and aside from an outer premise that’s been seen numerous times, Watch Me is a production that deserves a chance to be shoved out there for the masses to enjoy – well worth a watch.