There is something inherently scary in being observed when we’re unaware of it. Of course, all the movies that play on that fear always go beyond the simple act of watching: there needs to be action, blood, and actual scares rather than just the chilling sensation of being observed.
Welcome Home is no exception to that rule, falling into basic clichés and actually offering very little substance, yet it starts off on quite a strong point: that particularly chilling sensation of being watched.
George Ratliff’s (“The Devil’s Child”, “Hell House”) film follows a young couple, Bryan, Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad (TV)”, “Need For Speed”) and Cassie, Emily Ratajkowski (“Gone Girl”, “I Feel Pretty”), who decide to take a week off and rent a large isolated house just for the two of them in the Italian countryside.
The place is even better than the pictures told, so big that the characters could almost get lost in all those corridors and large rooms.
As the camera lingers on them, all alone in empty rooms, we start to feel like voyeurs waiting for the inevitable starting action to occur: will it be a breaking-in? A ghost haunting the place? A fit of madness from Bryan or Cassie?
The tension builds, but nothing happens, until the first night: as things start to get heated in the comfy outdoor pool, Bryan stops, startled. He thinks someone is watching them, but there is no one outside except for four neatly-lined garden gnomes.
And that is when the film reveals to us – and to us only – that Bryan was right: one of the gnomes, just like each room of the house, is equipped with a camera sending a live-feed to a computer somewhere we have yet to know about but which seems to be eerily close to the house.
This reveal is chilling, not only because the couple’s privacy is intruded upon, but because the build-up is felt by the spectator. The film makes us buy into a tension and threat that shouldn’t be here, invisible to both characters and spectators, until we realize that it is exactly what the fear of being watched is about: an invisible person whose presence and eyes you only feel in the back of your skull.