Calling Who’s Watching Oliver a horror film is a stretch. To be more precise, it is a mix of a tragic, romantic black comedy with lots of gratuitous gore. Yes, that sounds about right. Now, imagine watching a mix of genres like the ones just mentioned above. Sounds like a bitter, sour aftertaste, correct? Well, that is the closest that can describe the afterthoughts after watching this upcoming film.
Oliver, played by English actor Russell Geoffrey Banks (Ghost House), is a “misunderstood” loner with a traumatic past that commits heinous crimes at night, with guidance from his mommy dearest (Margaret Roche). While committing his crimes, Oliver meets naïve Sophia (Sara Malakul Lane), and…you guessed it, falls in love with her, turning away from his violent life. However, turning the back to his evil mother is not as easy as it sounds, and so the journey of transforming his life for the better unfolds.
Richie Moore made his directorial debut with this feature, but he is no stranger to the industry. Coming from a camera operator background, Moore has served in shows and films like Marco Polo, Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, The Hangover Part II and No Escape. It is noticeable how he heavily relies on visual storytelling, as this aspect is what drives the viewer to continue, rather than the plot itself. His stylistic choices served well to the constant change in tone of the film -from dark to quirky love scenes, the visuals and tones never feel out of place and help to transition the awkward pace of the story.
As for performances, the only one that truly adds to the film is Russell Geoffrey Banks. Sara Malakul Lane comes off as bland, although this might be in part due to the irrational dialogue and actions that her character Sophia takes throughout the film. Banks, on the other hand, adds layers to his character that would have been absent had a different actor attempted to portray such a difficult character. Margaret Roche, who plays the real villain of the story, is just one-dimensional in the end, and her performance makes the character feel like an evil caricature with no motivation beyond being antagonistic for the sake of it.
Going back to the plot, one of the biggest problems it has is how it tries to be many things at the same time, which only makes it unfocused and messy. The switch of genres is unsettling, which makes it harder for the film to find its audience. As well, it is difficult to sympathize with Oliver and Sophia, as their choices feel forced rather than results of a natural progression. To add to the issue of sympathizing: can you really root for the murderer to get a happy ending without facing any consequences? This concept is presented, but accepting it is a whole other issue. Oliver never did anything to really win the support of the audience that it looks for.