And the cake for the craziest and nastiest horror film of 2018 goes to… Who’s Watching Oliver!
Directorial debut of famous American cinematographer Richie Moore, Who’s Watching Oliver is produced by a British company, distributed by an American firm, stars two English actors, a Thai-American actress and an Italian actress, and it’s set in Thailand.
This film follows the simple story of Oliver, a loner, a mentally unstable person who’s forced to do unbelievably sick and vile things to women, forced by his psychotic mother through Skype (or the movie’s version of Skype). She stays in England, whereas Oliver leaves in Thailand, but his mama’s influence is so strong and ingrained that Oliver can’t shy away from it. However, things take a different turn when the protagonist meets Sophia, a seemingly clueless yet quite disturbed beautiful woman.
This rather straightforward story is, in reality, much more multifaceted as Who’s Watching Oliver combines many themes and sub-genres: torture-porn, serial killer story, love story, mom-and-son dysfunctional relationship, surrealism, explicit scenes of rape and violence, pitch black comedic moments. All these elements can be found in the 87-minute-long runtime of Who’s Watching Oliver. And one of the two issues I have with this film is strictly related to this aspect: the difference in tones and vibes doesn’t always blend together in the movie, resulting sometimes in a series of bizarre and disjointed vignettes.
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The other big problem this film is afflicted by is the lack of motivation or explanation for certain things. By “lack of explanation”, I don’t mean that the movie should be filled with exposition dialogues and sequences: however, there are a few loose ends (mini-subplots, so to speak) that are brought up but they aren’t ever solved. This can be quite unpleasantly frustrating at points, since the movie leaves you with a few unanswered questions at the end.
Besides these two negatives, Who’s Watching Oliver is a damn great horror film. Please, bear in mind that claiming a movie is great doesn’t automatically mean I liked it: in fact, I don’t think Who’s Watching Oliver is meant to be liked or enjoyed. Let’s see why and discuss what are the awesome achievements of this flick.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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First of all, Who’s Watching Oliver works perfectly as a character study. Much like Francisca from The Eyes of My Mother (2017), Oliver is a nasty and disgusting protagonist but, simultaneously, you come to feel sorry for him due to his taunting past and abusive mother who’s somewhat the real responsible for Oliver’s action. The actor who plays this character, Russel Geoffrey Banks, does a mesmerising job portraying a filthy and disturbed person: also, most of the comedy in the movie belongs to this character. I can only imagine how hard it is to insert subtle, dark jokes in a scene where you’re quartering a fully naked victim in a blood bath.
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In general, an odd yet intriguing aspect of Who’s Watching Oliver revolves around the only three characters (one always seen through a laptop screen), each one of them disturbed and mentally unstable, that take part in the film. Although Banks is the highlight, Sara Malakul Lane (Sophia) and Margaret Roche (Mama) both give quite ballsy and unsettling performances.
If you couldn’t tell yet, this film is extremely uneasy to watch. Part of it is due to its unconventional narrative (fun fact: Oliver is the only male character to speak in the movie, the rest of the dialogue is spoken by female characters) and part is dependent on the graphic content. If you’re not used to disturbing cinema, you might want to avoid Who’s Watching Oliver. The film is, in fact, filled with distasteful content: the dialogues (especially by Mama) are filled with dirty sentences, there are full-on rape scenes on screen, the violence and body-mutilation is as hard as you’d expect after watching the trailer. Yet, as I said before, nothing seems to be gratuitous, as this explicit content only enhances Oliver’s character.
In terms of technical features, Who’s Watching Oliver is really good, albeit quite simple. The entirety of the movie is set in four (only 4!) locations: Oliver’s apartment, a theme park, a red-light district and a club. The colour grading is always sombre, with the natural light filtered in a way that makes the movie look older and, in a way, dirtier. Even some sequences that take place in the aforementioned club, despite the use of bright and stroboscopic lights, look darker than they should’ve been.
Back to the story: does this film have a deeper meaning? I don’t know, in all honestly. Initially, I thought to write a “WHO’S WATCHING OLIVER – EXPLAINED review”, to analyse this movie in a spoiler-filled post. However, I came to the conclusion that there’s no real hidden meaning to Who’s Watching Oliver: this is simply a very horrific, vile and nasty tale about a disturbed serial killer, about a love story between two sick individuals, about a filthy relationship between mother and son (this is the most disturbing part of the movie, in my opinion).
Who’s Watching Oliver 8/10
One last thing: the quite high grade I gave to the movie is what I think Who’s Watching Oliver deserves, but I want to reiterate that this is not an entertaining, enjoyable film. It’s a motion picture that explores the edges of the horror genre, in a way that might be both too violent for critics’ taste and too unconventional and distasteful for mass audiences. If you do decide to check this movie out, proceed with caution, you really might not like what you’ll see on screen.