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“The Watcher” Fictionalizes Too Much Of True Story

Netflix thriller disappoints some fans
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons
Dean Brannock, played by Bobby Cannavale, rushes to his new neighbors home after receiving his first threatening letter in “The Watcher.” The mini-series is loosely based on a true story of family being stalked with threatening letters.

On Oct. 13, 2022, Netflix’s newest thriller mini-series, “The Watcher,” was released. 

Following the story of Nora Brannock, played by Naomi Watts, and Dean Brannock, played by Bobby Cannavale, and their two kids Ellie and Carter, the seven-episode mini-series was watched by over 20 million people in the first four days of its release. Based on a true story, the show follows their seemingly perfect New York family as they move to their dream house, 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey.

Not long after settling into their home, the Brannocks begin to receive creepy letters from a stalker calling themselves ‘The Watcher,’ asking intimate questions about their family and the house. There are also strange encounters between the Brannocks and their neighbors, such as the neighbors appearing in their house or watching it from afar. Dean and Nora rush to the police for answers and later hire a private investigator, taking them down 657 Boulevard’s chilling history. All the while, the pressure and constant agony the family is living under begins to drive them apart.

“The Watcher” is loosely based on the story of Derek and Maria Broaddus, who bought the real-life Watcher house in 2014. While the letters were real, Netflix’s show is embellished with a completely different story based around ‘The Watcher’ being a serial killer. 

The serialized drama of the show is very different from the events it was based on. The true owners of 657 Boulevard never moved into their supposed dream home and the letters arrived at the house before the family ever had a chance to move in. 

Furthermore, in the show, 657 Boulevard was watched for decades with letters being sent to each of the homeowners. In reality, the Broaddus’ were the only family to consistently receive letters from the stalker. 

The family that occupied the home prior lived there for 28 consecutive years. They only had positive memories from the home, and only received one letter right before they moved out. The show makes the previous owners’ stories seem much more disturbed than they were, further contributing to the show’s fictional aspects.

 The mini-series took one isolated incident and spun it into a tangled mess, far from what it was in real life. While this may make the show more hooking for the viewer, I felt like the show was too far removed from the true story and real events.

Character development is done extremely well in the show. Each member of the family has a defining moment with ‘The Watcher’ that directly affects their life.

The show was more off-paced than the teen dramas I’m used to watching, but that was something I actually really enjoyed. Although the first episode did not hook me as I wanted it to, the second episode made up for it by adding a major twist to the plot that grabbed my attention. 

Additionally, the world the Brannocks live in is full of soft muted tones, attributed to its cold dark mood. Much like the setting, the characters dress in muted tones and basic silhouettes. The lack of bright colors in the show displays the characters’ emotions and how being watched affects their mental health.

In addition to the set and costumes, the way the show was filmed at night from the Watcher’s point of view looking into the lives of the Brannocks added an extra level of thrill. Although we never actually saw who it was, the silhouette of someone in a black hoodie gave me chills. Those shots, paired with the horror music, made the show all the more terrifying. However, the music should’ve been used differently. Many shots felt like they could have been better with less dramatic music, as it made the story feel more fake.

The neighbors around the Brannock family added to the theme of being watched, giving the family a constant reminder of their predicament, which I thought was very interesting.

In general, I loved the way “The Watcher” was made, but I don’t feel like I would watch it again on my own. I feel like they could have condensed the show into five episodes. At times, I felt like they added too many made-up details, making the show more fictional and less grounded. I watched the show over the weekend and was left wanting more answers by the end. I would recommend this show to someone who likes mystery and thrillers, but doesn’t scare easily.

About the Contributor
Rohan Portteus
Rohan Portteus, Reporter
Who are your favorite music artists?  Lana Del Rey, Fiona Apple, Fleetwood Mac Where's the next place on your travel bucket list and why?  Thailand to visit the elephant rehab centers. What causes are you passionate about? Gender inequalities.