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Watchers Reborn

Review by Justin Felix

Screenplay by Sean Dash.
Based upon the novel Watchers by Dean Koontz.
Directed by John Carl Buechler.
Starring Mark Hamill, Lou Rawls, Kane Hodder, Lisa Wilcox.
Rated R (contains violence and profanity) 83 mins.

Synopsis: A humorless police officer's life changes when he befriends a super-smart, super-adorable golden retriever named Einstein and a cute, young blond scientist. Unfortunately, Einstein shares a psychic link with a bigfoot-sized ape-creature trained by the blond scientist to be an unstoppable killing machine, and this rogaine-nightmare is loose and after the dog and the girl. Meanwhile, a group of white, chain-smoking, gun-toting NSA agents in sunglasses and business suits tries to kill all the other characters in the movie.

Comments: Watchers Reborn, a cheaply made direct-to-video turkey, is the fourth sequel to the first film version of Dean Koontz's bestselling novel Watchers. Technically, this should have been called Watchers V, but it seems that this cycle of horror movies, much like many other sequel-crazy film series, has decided to drop the numbers from the titles. (Even the Star Trek movies dropped the numbers from their titles after Star Trek VI.) The makers of Watchers Reborn probably want to fool unsuspecting video rental customers into thinking this might be a good movie instead of a crappy fifth installment of a film series which should have died a long time ago.

This really isn't a good movie. Have you ever rented a movie and recieved a sinking feeling about it when you watched the previews preceding the feature presentation? Well, any hope a viewer may have had, perhaps because he is a fan of novelist Dean Koontz or actor Mark Hamill, will be dashed by the time he's seen the trailers tagged on before the beginning of watchers Reborn. They're awful. These commercials cover films like a strange stripper movie called Shadow Dancer, some weird crap about a dead Indian, teens, and wolves, and an "action" movie called Detonator starring Scott Baio. Scott Baio! What idiot dreamed this movie up?

After surviving these abysmal trailers, the person finally gets to watch the movie he rented: Watchers Reborn. "Maybe it won't be *that* bad" he may say to himself. "Perhaps, just perhaps, the bottom-of-the-barrel film fluff advertised before it is greatly misleading. watchers Reborn, after all, is based on that cool book Dean Koontz wrote a decade ago. It stars Mark Hamill -- Luke Skywalker himself from that terrific Star Wars trilogy. Lou Rawls is even in the mix!"

Unfortunately, the Force is certainly no longer with Mark Hamill (he looks very sick here), and this movie shares only basic plot elements with Watchers, the book. The latter is really too bad. Koontz is a hack writer producing way too many thrillers for his own good, but he is still my favorite hack writer. Koontz has a writing style which is succinct and suspenseful. People who read many of his books, however, often complain of repetitive plot devices. It's definately not a Koontz book if there isn't (1) a psychic, (2) a super-intelligent dog, or (3) a psychotic killer who likes ripping out people's eyeballs. Watchers has all three devices, which may explain why it's arguably the most popular of Koontz's books. The idea behind Koontz's novel, though highly implausible, is very interesting. Basically, a biological war machine is created: a smart dog can be released in battle, track down its target, and then relay the target's position, psychically, to a large creature designed to kill in hand-to-hand combat. Silly but kind of neat too.

I'm sorry. I don't mean to ramble on about matters not directly linked to Watchers Reborn, the movie. I suppose I just don't want to talk about the movie itself. This turkey is really cheesy. No one in this movie can act, including Mark Hamill, and it's difficult seeing the aged Luke Skywalker stumble around trying to be the hero. The cheese factor is only increased when he's involved in an implied sex scene with the blond biologist / geneticist / zoologist / whatever-the-f**k-she's-supposed-to-be whom he befriends. Mercifully, the filmmakers opted not to do nudity. To be honest, the only half-convincing actor in the film is the golden retriever who plays Einstein. You know a movie is bad when a dog outacts all of its human counterparts.

I find it difficult to relate how laughable the action sequences are in this movie. And the creature! Yes, the creature out after poor Einstein is some guy in a furry suit and a mask which poorly imitates the werewolves in The Howling. This creature is shot about 500,000 times, but it's okay. The creature has the ability to kill people by swinging his arms around and pushing. Oh, he can also rip body parts off, allowing for many scenes of fake hands and arms being thrown around. Cheesy gore. That's another main element of Watchers Reborn. It has many bloody scenes which are thoroughly unconvincing and only increase the film's campiness rather than its suspense.

Ultimately, I gave Watchers Reborn a star and a half because bad horror / sci-fi film buffs may get a few kicks out of the film's silliness (though this film will tax even their patience -- it's an 83 minute film, but it feels like four hours). Also, I hate to admit, I have survived far worse than this. Anyone who has sat through the Christopher Lambert and Natasha Henstridge debacle known as Adrenalin: Fear of the Rush will know what I mean. Finally, I couldn't help but think that Watchers Reborn would work well as "bot fodder" for the creative folks behind one of my all-time favorite shows, "Mystery Science Theater 3000." This thought alone helped me survive Watchers Reborn with a smile on my face.

Rated R, Watchers Reborn contains dozens of blood-spattered bodies and unconvincing gore. It also has violence, obviously. I wouldn't recommend it for the little kids, but I'm sure even young teens would make it through this movie okay. Instead of watching this film, however, I recommend reading Koontz's book. Trust me, it'll be time much, much better spent.


(Out of five)

You can read Justin's other reviews at The Internet Movie Database

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