"Watchers" opens with an experiment gone horribly awry. The United States military, always up to no good according to Hollywood, came up with a really groovy way to rack up a high body count during a war. Panadyne, one of those secret Department of Defense research laboratories, developed two organic weapons systems. The first ingredient of the project is a dog, a very intelligent dog trained to roam enemy landscapes looking for soldiers and, one presumes, innocent civilians. Whoever finds the dog and befriends the creature is in for the shock of their life, though. You see, Panadyne also created a hideously twisted organism capable of wreaking bloody havoc in a big way. A telepathic link between the dog and this creature--called Oxcom--allows the creature and the dog to communicate. Moreover, Oxcom hates the dog with all of its being, and will do anything to track down the canine and destroy it. This hatred is in fact the primary motivation for the creature to act as a weapon of mass destruction. The opening sequences show us the inevitable; the dog and the creature escape from the laboratory and head out into the good old U.S. of A. looking for trouble.
Teenager Travis Cornell (Corey Haim) discovers the dog after fleeing from a covert meeting with his girlfriend. Immediately impressed with the canine's intelligence, Cornell takes the animal home even though his mother won't allow her son to keep pets in the house. As Travis blithely drives away, his girlfriend's father stumbles over Oxcom and perishes in a particularly horrible manner. The girlfriend escapes largely unharmed and summons the police to the farmhouse. An operative from the National Defense apparatus, Lem Johnson (Michael Ironside) and his partner, arrives on the scene looking to close up the potential security risks arising from the escape and subsequent killing. You can more or less imagine what follows for the rest of the film: Travis, his mother, and the dog soon flee from the ravaging Oxcom with Lem Johnson hot on their trail. Lots of gory murders take place as the creature kills everything in its march to the dog. The conclusion involves the obligatory violent showdown between Travis and the creature, with Lem Johnson revealing the requisite plot twist one always sees in these types of films. Oh, I almost forgot--Jason Priestley turns up to say hello as one of Travis's friends before falling under the bloody claws of Oxcom.
"Watchers II" is, surprisingly, not a total retread of the first film despite what others have said. On this outing, the weapons program involving the dog and the creature is still going strong, and once again a violent escape takes place. An army deserter named Paul Ferguson (Marc Singer) befriends the pooch after the creature kills the two MPs assigned to bring him in. Once again, the dog shows off its intelligence by managing to bring Paul into contact with animal psychologist Barbara White (Tracey Scoggins). With the help of the dog, Paul and Barbara figure out what's going on and make plans to destroy the vicious creature. Meanwhile, one of the doctors from the laboratory tracks down the creature and decides to take care of it out of a sense of misplaced love for his horrific creation. The conclusion to the film runs on and on for what feels like an eternity as Paul goes down into the sewer system in pursuit of the Oxcom creature.
I'm a bit surprised at the scorn heaped on these two movies. Both films are solid B budget efforts that do manage to entertain for a couple of hours. I've never read the Dean Koontz novel that gave birth to the "Watchers" franchise (there are two more sequels after the second entry), so perhaps that is why I can appreciate these films when others do not. Of the two films, I have to go with the first one as the better effort. It's fun to see Jason Priestley turned into ground beef by a slimy monster, and the gore effects are generous and look effective. Also, I'm a big Michael Ironside fan, so any film with him sneering and threatening is sure to grab my attention. The pitfalls of "Watchers" include Corey Haim at his smarmiest, and the increasingly goofy antics of the dog. I'll buy some of the tricks the pooch pulls off, but I was groaning with derision by the time the dog is typing out a message on a computer. But, and this is a big but, the dog is quite endearing and the movie makes you root for him almost from the get go.
"Watchers II" is classic B movie nirvana, a movie so pedestrian that you'll forget all about it five minutes after the credits roll. Yet the film does have a high point. Marc Singer possesses an amazing ability to act alongside animals. We saw him do it in "Beastmaster" and we see him do it here just as well. I always hear how actors can't stand to star opposite an animal because the critters take all the attention away from the human, but Singer doesn't seem to mind (insert your own joke here, please). He talks to the dog and responds to the animal's actions in such a way that you actually believe this pooch is a genius. Regrettably, Singer's skills with the beastie cannot rescue the film from lousy and sporadic gore effects, an incredibly ridiculous looking monster, and various creature feature clichés that hang over this picture like a cloud of doom. I recommend giving these two movies a shot if you're looking for something mindless to pass a few hours. As you should know by now, you could always do much, much worse.