The Watched | Picturehouse Recommends

Ishana Night Shyamalan takes up the family business of suspense-filled moviemaking with this frightening fable starring Dakota Fanning.

Hanna Flint

07 Jun 24

Ishana Night Shyamalan

Release Date
7 June


Dakota Fanning, Georgina Campbell, Oliver Finnegan, Olwen Fouéré


Running Time
102 mins

M. Night Shyamalan is one of the most celebrated names in suspense thrillers, thanks to his intensely cerebral and spine-tingling catalogue of films, including The Sixth Sense, The Village, Split and The Visit.

Now his middle daughter, Ishana Night Shyamalan, is proving she too has a taste for nail-biting thrillers by following in his footsteps with her feature directorial debut The Watched.

Based on A.M. Shine's Irish Gothic spine-tingling novel called The Watchers, the film follows 28-year-old artist Mina, played by Dakota Fanning, who finds herself stranded in a dense, ominous forest in western Ireland.

In need of shelter, Mina enters a bunker with an enormous one-way window and inadvertently becomes trapped inside with three mysterious strangers played by Georgina Campbell (Barbarian, Suspicion), Oliver Finnegan (Creeped Out, Outlander) and Olwen Fouéré (The Northman, The Tourist).

The first teaser was released in February, showing Mina's arrival at the hideaway and introduction to the current inhabitants. "We are just like you," Fouéré's character says from inside their eerie coop bathed in yellow light. With Camille Saint-Saëns's The Swan (Le Cygne) playing out on an old gramophone and a dating show on an old-fashioned television, blood-curdling screeches and unnerving applause of unseen beasts can be heard outside. 

The film was shot on location in Wicklow, Ireland, and boasts an eclectic creative team helping Shyamalan to realise her murky, unearthly vision. As well as her father as an executive producer, the team includes director of photography Eli Arenson, who previously worked on the darkly chilling mythical thriller Lamb; production designer Ferdia Murphy (Lola, Finding You); editor Job ter Burg (Benedetta, Elle); costume designer Frank Gallacher (Sebastian, Aftersun); and The Nun's Abel Korzeniowski, who has composed the daunting, haunting score.

The original novel was steeped in Irish mysticism and folklore, which fits the debut filmmaker's more fantastical sensibilities, according to her dad.

"She has slightly more of a fantasy bend than I do," M. Night Shyamalan told Entertainment Weekly. "She speaks in bolder colours than I do. The disadvantage of being an accomplished artist is that your experience starts working against you. I see [fewer] options because I've done so many things. She doesn't see that; for her, everything is possible."

Shyamalan has been building towards her first feature as both writer and director. She directed several episodes of her dad's acclaimed psychological horror Apple TV+ series Servant while still studying at his alma mater, New York's Tisch School of the Arts. She also worked as a second unit director on her father's most recent films Old and Knock At The Cabin.

"Horror just ended up being the language I feel most comfortable in," the filmmaker has said of her penchant for the grim.

The Watched has been described as, "equal parts visual, immersive and terrifying" by Richard Brener, the president and CCO of New Line Cinema. "The script grips you from the first page and never lets go."

Given her track record, Ishana Night Shyamalan's The Watched looks set to continue her family's stunning horror legacy.  Hanna Flint

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Listen: Lucy Fenwick Elliott talks to Ishana Night Shyamalan for the Picturehouse podcast, The Love of Cinema.

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The Watched is in cinemas from 7 June Book Now!