First of all, let me say that I was kindly offered a preview of this film by some of the people involved in the making of it. According to an email I received, with all of the info required to allow me to watch the film, Who's Watching Oliver "made its rounds on the film fest circuit and has won 11 Best Picture, 4 Best Actor (Russell Geoffrey Banks) and 2 Best Supporting Actress (Sara Malakul Lane and Margaret Roche) among many Nominations and Official Selections. That's quite a decent list of achievements so far, and probably far better than the recognition that I would get for any horror movie I attempted to make.
Yes, as some of you may have suspected, I have started my review with some kind words about the movie from someone else because, well, it just didn't really work for me as well as it has clearly worked for some other people. It's not that I thought this was a bad film. I just didn't see much point to it.
The slim plot sees Oliver (played by Russell Geoffrey Banks) going about his day to day business, which involves speaking to his mother (Margaret Roche) via his laptop, talking to himself a lot, and heading out to find a young woman that he can get back to his flat and abuse and kill while his mother watches from that laptop screen. Things look like they may have to change when Oliver finds himself growing closer to a young woman (Sophia, played by Sara Malakul Lane). Will he be able to resist his urges? Or, more importantly, will he be able to resist the will of his mother?
It's all quite well put together, in terms of the technical side of things. Director Richie Moore, who also worked on the script with Banks and Raimond Huber, keeps the frame neat and tidy most of the time, carefully blocking certain shots and walking a fine line between the nastiness shown and the even nastier stuff that is either just out of shot or edited to save viewers from wanting to scrub their eyeballs. The soundtrack may feel oddly out of place, considering the visuals, but that somehow adds to the feeling that this is a film putting you inside the confused and fractured mind of the main character.
Banks is pretty good in the main role, and Roche is amusing enough in her one-note performance, but it's Lane who gives the best of the main performances. Although it's hard, at least initially, to see why she would even like Oliver, things develop in a way that allow for that to feel slightly more believable, helped by the likability and sweetness of Lane (who has been involved in a number of genre films over the past decade and who I hope to see in many more over the next few years).
The biggest problem with Who's Watching Oliver is the script. The writers seem to have been caught between wanting to create something that was purely a sensory experience and something that tells you a bit about what makes a man into a crazed killer, which leaves the end result disappointingly sitting between the two approaches. It also doesn't do enough to show how Oliver maintains his lifestyle, how he manages to convince so many women to go home with him (one is won over by the prospect of drugs, some are tempted by money, but it's hard to believe that he gets them all so easily, considering the creepy vibe he gives off constantly).
Overall, this is a potentially decent serial killer movie undermined by a weak script and the choice to make two of the main characters sadly lacking in any kind of complexity, or even personality, beyond their evil essence.
Who's Watching Oliver is available very soon (July 3rd in USA and Canada) and here's a link for the disc release.
And here is an iTunes link.