When I first decided to watch Who's Watching Oliver, I was quite hesitant. In many cases, torture porn has come off as nothing but a cheap gimmick to induce horror. However, after spending 87 minutes in Oliver's hell, I was surprised by its utilization of gore and references to many #horror classics. It's a refreshing indie dark comedy that blends the concept of "searching for love" with the growing torture fad.
Beneath the layers of bloody epidermis and severed body parts is a touching love story about two people finally finding love, despite their similar and haunting pasts. Russell Geoffrey Banks is the real star here, and his performance is one of the finest I've seen in a horror film as of late.
His bellows of pain, difficulty to reciprocate love, and the moments where he involuntarily physically violates himself and others are played out so terrifyingly by Banks, it's just difficult to imagine him as a normal person. He plays such a multi-layered antihero, incorporating traits from iconic characters like Forrest Gump, Patrick Bateman and Norman Bates, while adding his own, everyday man personality that makes this film even more convincing.
Like many #indiehorror films from today's era, this movie is a product of its environment and honestly, I would rather have something build on the strong foundation of classic films than the cheap CGI-laden stuff available in theaters. Now, I'll be discussing the pieces of horror that the collective effort of Richie Moore, Raimund Huber and Banks pays grizzly tributes to.
Oliver Is Forrest Gump, With A Twist!
"My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of who*es. You never know what you’re gonna get.'" — Oliver
Who's Watching Oliver draws influence from Forrest Gump in the characterization of its titular character. Like Forrest, Oliver goes through difficult and unreal experiences in his constant search for the emotion that binds the universe together, love, and to eventually find his place in the world. Russell Geoffrey Banks's portrayal is the perfect balance between horror and sadness. Like Gump, Oliver isn't gifted with a great mind that can truly comprehend the complexities of life, but there's something pure and innocent about him that makes his oppression very difficult to watch.
Who Is The Real 'Psycho'?
Halfway through the movie, I asked myself, "Who is the real psycho? Oliver or his mom?" and I found my answer by the end. Though there have been many movies that have explored the mother-child relationship in horror films, none of them are as unforgettable as the one in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. The director managed to turn a sacred relationship into a frightening one, and Who's Watching Oliver delves deeper into the worst side of it. The latter also references Psycho by having "mama" hurl deafening screams during the murders, similar to Norman Bates hearing his mother's screams during the killings.
Norma in Psycho raises Norman to be wary of all other women, assuring his allegiance to her by convincing him that sex is sinful, which also explains why he murders her and then murders women while dressed in her clothes. In Who's Watching Oliver, mama is basically Norma through a glass darkly — she encourages Oliver to rape women but never to have consensual sex with them.
The Deterioration Of Innocence: Carrie Versus Oliver
Imagine being born in the same household as Carrie, and then trapped for the rest of your life under the supervision of her crazy mother. Margaret Roche's "mama" is still a long shot away from emulating Piper Laurie's Margaret White, but she does bring the sickening madness that is expected of her. She mentally tortures her son, and even goes to the extent of making him sexually stimulate himself for her pleasure. This is symbolic of Oliver being forcefully evicted from his comfort zone. In Brian DePalma's Carrie, the mother considers her daughter to be corrupt after she goes out with a boy and even tries to kill her. Both Carrie and Oliver are exploited in the name of maternal love, and are indirectly or directly driven towards their destruction.
What Do Patrick Bateman And Oliver Have In Common?
Like Patrick Bateman, Oliver is also a victim of his circumstances. He often comes across certain events that provoke his depersonalized behaviorism, eventually triggering a complete meltdown. He suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder like Bateman, and therefore is very particular about his appearance and clothes. Throughout the movie Oliver carries a camera, an excuse to convey occupancy, similar to Bateman, who carries a walkman everywhere. Both Bateman and Oliver rape their victims before proceeding to dismember the bodies, though their mental state at this moment differs.
An American Werewolf In Bangkok
There was one thing that intrigued me and wasn't discussed until the later stages of the movie — the burnt patch on Oliver's spine. His father tried to burn him alive, causing his mother to intervene and kill her husband. The patch in low-light resembles the tuft of hair present on the back of werewolves. Oliver has pointed ears, pronounced canines, long, slicked-back hair resembling a mane — basically a facial structure similar to a werewolf — and also slouches while walking. These, combined with his terrifying exploits at night, bear an uncanny resemblance to a werewolf's transformation.
Who's Watching Oliver has not yet been released, and is in the middle of a very successful run in film festivals, bagging half a dozen of awards for its originality and the stellar lead performance. This is a must-watch for horror enthusiasts who are tired of the recycled supernatural movies that are being released every summer. Do not miss the chance to catch it on the big screen and don't forget to some paper bags!