They Watch

This supernatural programmer, produced by Showtime as one of its made-for-cable originals, is based on a short story by Rudyard Kipling. Despite its modern setting, the film is essentially a gothic chiller of a familiar type. Successful South Carolina architect Mark Samuels (Patrick Bergin), a confirmed workaholic, can't even manage to show up on time...read more

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This supernatural programmer, produced by Showtime as one of its made-for-cable originals, is based on a short story by Rudyard Kipling. Despite its modern setting, the film is essentially a gothic chiller of a familiar type.

Successful South Carolina architect Mark Samuels (Patrick Bergin), a confirmed workaholic, can't even manage to show up on time for the dance recital of his daughter Nikki (Nancy Moore Atchison). Before he can patch things up with her, his wife Chris (Valerie Mahaffey) gets caught in a massive

pileup on the highway, and Nikki is killed. Mark buries his grief in work, and this soon threatens to disrupt his marriage. Meanwhile, strange things begin to happen around the house: Nikki's music box plays inexplicably; her drawings appear on the refrigerator or in Mark's briefcase.

One day, Mark spies an antique photo in a shopfront window which appears to correspond exactly to one of Nikki's drawings. Fearing he's undergoing an emotional collapse, Mark surreptitiously researches the photo; he's led to the Deep South mansion of Florence Latimer (Vanessa Redgrave), a blind

matron rumored to possess "the gift." Over several visits, Mark witnesses children on the premises, and slowly comes to realize that these are the souls of dead children who seek out Latimer for her powers as a conduit between the worlds. By Florence's account, "children can only leave on the

tears of those who love them," and she is able to usher them into the next world by resolving their relationships with family members. When Mark finally catches sight of Nikki, he summons his wife and his other daughter. After he rescues his second daughter from drowning, Mark is able to find

Nikki's ghost and tell her he loves her, effectively settling the cosmic score. The final images are of Mark and family on a seaside vacation.

THEY WATCH consciously harks back to DON'T LOOK NOW, the atmospheric Nicholas Roeg thriller adapted from a story by Daphne du Maurier. This film lacks the visceral edge and kinetic violence of most latter-day ghost stories, which is arguably to its advantage--the great beyond is characterized

here in an unusually reflective way, and the ghosts make sense on a psychological level as manifestations of repressed guilt. Unmemorable but diverting, THEY WATCH is a success on the modest terms of contemporary cable movies. (Violence.)

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