Review: WHO’S WATCHING OLIVER (2018)

WHO'S WATCHING OLIVER

Ever since PSYCHO, a twisted mother-son relationship has been at the root of many horror stories. It’s popped up in films as varied as DERANGED, UNHINGED (one of the original “video nasties”) and modern exploitation classics such as the original MOTHER’S DAY. Add to that list WHO’S WATCHING OLIVER, a film that does a remarkable job of walking a path between Hitchcock’s classic and something that escaped from a grindhouse.

Oliver (Russell Geoffrey Banks PERNICIOUS, GHOST HOUSE)has recently moved to Thailand. An odd, awkward and nerdy looking fellow he wanders somewhat aimlessly through his days. Some nights he picks up drunks or hookers. Some nights he video chats with his mother (Margaret Roche). Some nights he does both because Mama loves to watch her boy commit rape and murder.

Things become complicated when he meets Sophia (Sara Malakul Lane BEYOND THE GATES, KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE). As an unlikely romance blooms between these two damaged individuals, Oliver finds himself caught between his own needs and those of his mother. When Mama decides Sophia needs to be his next victim Oliver is forced to make a choice. Can there possibly be a happy ending for any of them?

WHO’S WATCHING OLIVER is the directorial debut of cameraman Richie Moore. Moore also co-wrote the film with Banks and Raimund Huber (FREERUNNER). The result is a film that is hard to watch for all the right reasons. The killings themselves would be disturbing on their own, but his mother not only watching but urging him on in very explicit terms pushes the creep factor way up.

Even more disturbing in their own way are the non-murder related conversations between them. The level of wrongness in their relationship is almost beyond comprehension. And the inevitable thoughts it generates about how it got that way may well be worse. This is in contrast to the sweet scenes between Oliver and Sophia. While in some ways it’s an almost cliche awkward romance here those scenes work beautifully. They are the perfect contrast to the scenes between Oliver and his mother and a sign there’s still something human left in Oliver.

The acting here is excellent, surprisingly so to a degree. This was only the second role for Roche, who delivers an incredible performance as the vicious, obscenity-spewing mother. With an appearance as ugly and twisted as her personality, she’s one of the most genuinely hateable characters I’ve seen in a long time.

I’ve seen Banks and Lane in several films previously and while they’ve always done well none of the films really called on them to deliver an overly involved performance. Oddly enough they played a dysfunctional mother/son team, Morgana, and Mordred, in The Asylum’s KING ARTHUR AND THE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE. Here though they have to make complex characters believable and hold our sympathy. Banks actually makes us feel for Oliver even after we see what he’s capable of. He makes us understand the conflict between who he wants to be, and what his mother forces him to be.

A twisted, brilliant film that won’t be for everyone, WHO’S WATCHING OLIVER grabs hold early and keeps you off guard up until it’s wonderfully twisted final shot.

Gravitas Ventures will release WHO’S WATCHING OLIVER July 3, 2018, in the US and Canada. You can check for updates on other countries via their Facebook page

Jim Morazzini

Movie buff, gym rat and crazy cat guy