“The Watcher” chills with a true New Jersey horror story

Based on a true story in a suburban town not too far from Ramapo, the new Netflix series “The Watcher” does not fail to keep you on the edge of your seat. The Netflix limited series, which released on Oct. 13, features seven episodes about a married couple and their children who move to a new home and receive terrifying letters by an unknown stalker who watches their every move — hence the name of the series.

“The Watcher” takes place at 657 Blvd., Westfield, N.J. and is based on a true crime story about Derek and Maria Broaddus, portrayed by Bobby Cannavale and Naomi Watts as Dean and Nora Brannock. The uneasy atmosphere is set by a series of unnerving letters sent to the couple, signed off by The Watcher.

The couple received no support from their neighbors or the Westfield Police Department. Instead they were treated as if they were out of touch with reality.

Their creepy neighbors, Jasper and Pearl, were also based on real people. Jasper’s consistent disconcerting behavior was explained by his schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder diagnoses. He never causes actual harm to the main couple, but his actions lead to him being banned from the property.

Time after time, the Brannock family received threatening letters and no answers. They brought their concerns to the police repeatedly but received no concrete results or aid. I personally found it strange how the police did nothing throughout the whole show to help solve this case. This mystery seemed like it was shoved under the rug and the police wanted to silence it.

The Brannock family eventually hired a detective, Theodora Birch. She seemed to be the only person that cared about the case as much as the Brannocks did. No one else seemed frightened about what was going on in the Westfield home, which resulted in suspicious behavior.

At this point, all the neighbors are suspects. Mitch and Mo, who are also based on real people, are known to sit on their pair of lawn chairs, sip on their drinks and watch the home — which is also creepy. They get accused of being in a cult and drinking others’ blood.

Another suspect is John Graff. A mysterious man walks into the 657 Blvd. home and makes himself a sandwich while impersonating the property inspector for the house. Dean suspects that John is the mass murderer who killed his own family previously in the home and the writer of the anonymous letters.

Fed up with difficult home renovations, threatening anonymous letters, suspicious neighbors and personal issues, the Brannock family decides to return to New York City. However, they still sought closure for their unsolved case.

Each episode is filled with cliffhangers, leaving viewers wondering who can be trusted. Each episode inspires a new guess for The Watcher’s identity. Watching the series brings a whirlwind of emotions and theories, simply because the real case was never resolved.

The execution of the show’s horrifying, realistic details is what made it such a good watch, and it is all thanks to the production team. The show was created by TV horror veteran Ryan Murphy, known for the hit show “American Horror Story” and most recently “Monster: The Jeffery Dahmer Story.” With his vast experience in creating horror television and shows detailing true events – seen in each season of “American Crime Story” – it is no surprise that Murphy gave us another exceptionally well-made series.

I thoroughly enjoyed “The Watcher” and think it was fantastic. It was a horror TV show that skillfully embellished a true story with dramatic jump scares and a suspenseful score. All the small details left a big impact on viewers.

To this day, the case remains unsolved and I’m curious to see if they ever catch the person behind the letters. I recommend you all to watch this Netflix series if you are interested in the horror genre, and having it take place in New Jersey makes it even more engaging — and perhaps more frightening.

5/5 stars



Photo courtesy of Netflix, Wikipedia.