Freeman Cebu Entertainment

The forest has secrets in Irish folklore ‘The Watchers’

The Freeman

“It felt like an unending pool of inspiration to draw from – that’s the dream as both a writer and director.” Ishana Shyamalan was riveted by A.M. Shine’s novel, “The Watchers” as she was searching for inspiration for her first feature film. Now “The Watchers” has been transformed into an enthralling horror-thriller, based on the novel and starring Dakota Fanning.

Producer M. Night Shyamalan says that the book and Ishana were a perfect pair as far as adaptations go. “Ishana – who wrote a lot of the episodes of ‘Servant’ and directed several of them – has a fantasy bent in her interests. ‘The Watchers’ is an amazing book for her to adapt. She read it and fell in love, and wanted to both write and direct it. It was a very wonderful, organic way that it came about.”

The production wanted to lean into the Irish folklore aspect of the novel, and the whole atmosphere that comes with it.

“I think our basis was A.M. Shine’s inspiration and expertise in Irish folklore, which really informed and excited all of us – he was referencing ancient storytellers. We were taking his knowledge and then making it a contemporary thriller,” M. Night explains. “It was lovely to learn the origins were really in Ireland, with the kind of dark insinuations in them – I think the beautiful part about the Grimms’ fairy tales is the darkness underneath it.”

Through the darker and more intense aspects of “The Watchers,” the theme of womanhood and family are intertwined throughout the story. “As a young woman, it’s kind of inevitable that the ideas of femininity, womanhood and motherhood are imbued into the things that I write. And that very much became the center of the story, which to me is a mother/daughter story between the characters of Madeline and Mina,” Ishana says. “But this is not just for a female audience; it feels very muscular, bold, fearsome and strong. All the women in this film are all of those things. They’re very powerful. I hope it transcends stereotypes a bit.”

Though set in a very specific corner of the world, Ishana hopes to build a universal story that audiences can relate to. “There are family dynamics and human relationships at the center of everything. In the film, they’re really a family. Despite the fantasy, thriller and horror elements, and everything around them, I think it’s really about how people relate to each other and how to find a way to be connected in a world that’s really tough to be connected in.”

“The Watchers” – in Philippine cinemas on June 12 – follows Mina, a 28-year-old artist, who gets stranded in an expansive, untouched forest in western Ireland. When Mina finds shelter, she unknowingly becomes trapped alongside three strangers who are watched and stalked by mysterious creatures each night. You can’t see them, but they see everything.

It stars Dakota Fanning (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Ocean’s Eight”), Georgina Campbell (“Barbarian,” “Suspicion”), Oliver Finnegan (“Creeped Out,” “Outlander”) and Olwen Fouere (“The Northman,” “The Tourist”).

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