WATCH THE SERIES: Watchers

Dean Koontz — whose own website proclaims him as the “International Bestselling Master of Suspense” — has sold over 450 million copies of his books, but it always seems like he’s a little behind Stephen King. I mean, that’s not a bad thing, as King was just a monolith when it came to selling books. But Koontz was successful as well. as in the VHS rental wild late 80s and 90s, so many of his books became movies. Watchers, which is very, very loosely based on one of his books, has three sequels alone.

Other Koontz film adaptions include Demon SeedThe Passengers (based on his noel Shattered), WhispersServants of TwilightHideawayIntensityMr. MurderPhantomsSole SurvivorFrankensteinOdd Thomas and Black River.

Koontz’s golden retriever Trixie was often on his book jackets and even wrote two books, Life Is Good: Lessons in Joyful Living and Christmas Is Good. She was a service dog that had been trained by Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a charitable organization that provides service dogs for people with disabilities, an organization that Koontz discovered while writing his book Midnight. Over the years, he helped the group raise $2.5 million in funds, so Trixie was their gift to him. So you can see why having a supercanine golden retriever in a story made sense to him — which is what Watchers is all about.

Watchers (1988): It’s a rivalry as old as time: a golden retriever with special abilities battling the mutated monster known as the OXCOM (Outside Experimental Combat Mammal).

The dog soon makes friends with Travis Cornell (Corey Haim) and his girlfriend Tracey (Lala Sloatman, who was dating Haim; she’s also the niece of Frank Zappa and is in Amityville: A New Generation). Of course, the government wants the dog back, so they send NSO agent Johnson (Michael Ironside).

This movie kills everyone it comes across, with either OXCOM or Johnson basically wiping out a small town, whether to kill or to keep the murders secret.

Amazingly, this was originally written by Paul Haggis, who would go on to write Million Dollar BabyCrash and yes, create Walker Texas Ranger.

Watchers II (1990): Hey, I think that Marc Singer — he’s the Beastmaster — and Tracy Scoggins — from Dynasty and The Colbys — are fine replacements in this film that finds OXCOM and a golden retriever still battling one another.

Singer is a Marine gone AWOL. Scoggins is an animal psychologist from the top secret laboratory and the OXCOM still is a goofy rubber suit. And sure, this may be the same movie we just watched, but when has a sequel being the same as the first movie ever stopped us?

Screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris used the name Henry Dominic — the same alter ego they’d use for Bloodfist IIFlight of the Black AngelThe UnbornSevered Ties and Mindwarp — as neither were members of the Writer’s Guild of America. Brancato and Ferris would go on to write The Game, as well as The Net.

Thierry Notz also directed The Terror Within which makes a lot of sense once you see this movie.

Watchers 3 (1994): Oh yes, this third one was shot in Peru, executive produced by Roger Corman and has one of my favorites, Wings Hauser, in the middle of the never-ending war between mutant and mongrel. Yes, this time it’s the deformed Outsider, which lives only to kill, battling Einstein, a golden retriever with an IQ of 175.

To stop the monster, Hauser is put in charge of a squad of military men and criminals. Now if you’re thinking, “Would Roger Corman rip off Predator?” let me just say that yes, he would. He did. And he would do it again.

Written by the same man who penned Carnosaur 2, let me tell you, I will regret nothing on my deathbed except probably the time I spent watching this movie. Eh, who am I kidding? I’d watch it again if you asked with any nicety in your tone.

Watcher Reborn (1998): You know what you never realize as a kid? As bad of a director as George Lucas can be, he’s one of the few people able to reign in the hammy tendencies of Mark Hamill, who plays a detective in this one who has just lost his wife and son to a fire that was probably caused by a mutant because that’s how it goes.

Lisa Wilcox, Alice from A Nightmare On Elm Street 4 and 5, plays the scientist who introduces him to a golden retriever, this time named Alex and being not as smart as he was the last time, only having an IQ of 140. This one also has a pit bull and the man who ruined Night Gallery in syndication, Gary Collins, so you know that my heart is on the side of the animals and not the humans. I’m also on the side of all murderous mutants, because as Emily Dickinson wrote, “The heart wants what it wants, or else it does not care,” and we’ve gone about proving this inscrutable wisdom true ever since.”

Low Rawls — yes, the man who sang “You’ll Never Find Another Love like Mine” — has a cameo as a coroner, so if you ever get asked, “What do Lucio Fulci and Lou Rawls have in common?” and a gun is at your temple, I have provided you with the knowledge that will save your life.

Director John Carl Buechler ran Corman’s special effects team for some time before directing movies like DemonwarpCellar Dweller and Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood.

Should you watch the Watchers movies? Look, I don’t want to tell you what to do with your life. I mean, you could also ask, “Should you watch a hundred Jess Franco movies in one month?” The answer is always going to be yes for me as I try and get the highest of movie highs, no matter how bad the strain seems to be.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.