They're Watching Us
(NOS MIRAN) 2002
Director: Norberto Lopez Amado

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

An almost literary flair launches the moody They're Watching Us (Nos Miran, 2002), as we watch a boy lay down on a track, taking his turn letting a train rush over him.

They're Watching UsJuan (Carmelo Gomez) is a cop & a good family man. He's been given a difficult case. A business mogul vanished without a single clue where, why, or how.

It had been a high profile case a couple years earlier, but it went nowhere, so now it's passed on to Juan with the expectation that it will go stagnant. But he becomes so obsessive in his desire to solve it that he begins to neglect family, friends, everything else.

The more deeplykhe investigates, the less explicable the disappearance becomes. Jose Medina (Karra Elejalde), an officer who went insane on the case, had accumulated several similar cases of inexplicable disappearances. Our hero sets off to the madhouse to interview Medina, who has developed almost Lovecraftian theories of a purgatorial dimension into which the missing are snared.

The horror of the piece is sneaky in the way it insinuates into Juan's world. One of the most real & matter-of-fact grave-tampering scenes is a big spike for mood, but it's when the supernatural ceases to be deniable that it seems unfortunate this decent man is resolved to continue, as it can't possibly end happily.

They're Watching UsClues come to him from pages of heretical books -- medieval grimoires -- & through an underground of devottees of the black arts.

It builds slowly with no great flourishes of absurd grotesqueries (dismissing a sequence that cheats by ending as only a dream). Instead, for the longest while, They're Watching Us relies on character, mysteriousness, & paranoia.

Juan had a sister, Sara (Eva Llobregat), who vanished when they were kids. His investment in the present case is therefore personal. In flashbacks we see Juan, Sara, & strange other-domensional children, the latter taking Sara away.

As the case itself possesses him, Juan becomes aware that other-dimensional presences walk unseen among us, watching us, & stealing us away if we become too aware of their existence. He seems one of them stalking his own children. But his growing perception leads to his wife, friends, fellow officers, growing ever more certain he's losing his mind.

Young Alex & Laura (Manuel Lozano & Carolina Petterson) keep the secret of their spectral visitors. But Laura's teacher is cruel to her, & by wanting the teacher to be burned up like a witch, the event happens just as Laura had drawn it in a picture.

Only then does Juan's wife Julia (Iciar Bollain) begin to suspect her husband is perfectly sane. She even seeks out Medina at the madhouse, seeking her own answers so as to protect her family.

A priest who dabbled in magic, & suffers for it, tries to explain the "watchers" to Julia. Such spirts are always nearby, & aren't invariably harmful but can be. They like best to induce children to play games that bring with them the risk of death.

"They" induced the insane cop to kill his own son, & Julia begins to worry the same possibility threatens her family, explaining her husband's eratic behavior. She's convinced now her family is at peril, but is Juan's madness aimed at saving them, or harming them? Should Laura be willing to take any action to stop her husband?

A "big" cinematic ending is always expected of horror films, even quietly constructed ones. This one's so different, with a more strange than frightening calmness to the final revelation & events. The watchers do finally claim that which is theires, & we do get to see our world as from that other dimension.

What an amazing film. The main star has a profile to die for & general demeaner of quiet heroism, a wonderful actor thrilling to watch in every scene. The entire cast is so "in" the story they seriously make the impossible convincing, & the rill up the spine is hard to shake afterward.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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