When the first entry in the Watchers series—a series ever so loosely based on a Dean Koontz novel—offered up a teenage Corey Haim bantering with an intelligent dog named Einstein, I knew I had to sit up and take notice. Throw in a government weapons program gone horribly wrong, a flesh ripping monster run amok, and Michael Ironside in yet another turn as an evil dude—well, the bad movie lover in me began howling at the moon. Heck, the first film even had Jason Priestly torn to shreds by the aforementioned monster. What’s not to love? Then came "Watchers 2," a movie that once again introduced us to an intelligent dog and a monstrous entity, lots of cheesy kills, and the unforgettable sight of Marc Singer acting opposite the dog. Yay! Actually, the Beastmaster did a pretty good job keeping a straight face as the increasingly ridiculous plot unfolded. "Watchers 3" carries on this grand tradition of schlock by bringing in low budget megastar Wings Hauser to battle the fabled weapons project now run amok three times in a row. Incredibly, there is a "Watchers 4" I have yet to see. Rest assured I’ll view that one as soon as possible.
"Watchers 3" finds the satanic forces in the Pentagon up to their usual tricks. Not content with closing down a weapons program that resulted in untold deaths amongst the civilian population in the first two films, a gaggle of four star devils decides to reinitiate Project Aesop (as it’s known in this film) in order to wreak havoc against a bunch of commie evildoers down in Central America. We see a bunch of Che Guevara wannabes sitting around a campfire sucking down a warm six pack of guava punch when a dog ambles into their midst. Awww! Isn’t he a cute pooch! Even fellow travelers can’t help but grin at the sight of a wagging tail. Unfortunately, this dog is the vanguard of Project Aesop, the smart dog that leads the deadly Outsider monster to its target. Sure enough, the grisly beast shows up a few minutes later and dispatches these Leninist stooges with extreme prejudice. The only survivors are the dog and a young boy (Ider Cifuentes Martin) who witnesses the horror but manages to not only hide but also keep the dog out of sight of the Outsider. You see, the Outsider follows the dog because his goal is to kill the dog and…oh, never mind. If you need an explanation just watch the first two movies. You’re probably already familiar with the backstory if you’re reading this review.
Anyway, the military wants Major Ferguson (Wings Hauser) to fly down to Central America and do something vaguely important…mop up operations or some such nonsense. Problem is, Ferguson is currently serving a stretch at Leavenworth and doesn’t want to play nice. Predictably, the brass threatens him with an extended stay in the joint if he doesn’t go. How he can refuse after that? Off goes Hauser with a team of "Dirty Dozen" type miscreants. There’s obligatory black guy Nat (Daryl Roach), Vietnam veteran and all around jerk Bonetti (Gregory Scott Cummins), first to die MacCready (John K. Linton), and a curvy Latina guide named Gomez (Lolita Ronalds). The obvious group tensions pop up almost immediately, mostly bad tempers and endless hitting on Gomez, and then nothing much happens. These guys stomp around in the jungle for what feels like an eternity before stumbling over the boy and the smart dog. Ferguson, who was intimately involved in the Aesop project during one of its previous incarnations, immediately recognizes the pooch and just as immediately realizes the team is in real big trouble. The government has obviously set them up, and the rest of the film is a fight for survival against the relentless Outsider. Yawn.
"Watchers 3" screams "Predator" ripoff. The Latina guide, a military team fighting a monstrous entity in the deep jungle—it’s all here. Except for, of course, Arnie, a big budget, and any charm the original "Predator" had. This is cheap, straight to video schlock without an ounce of originality. Wings Hauser is probably the best thing the movie has going for it, outside of the charming dog, and even he often has a look in his eyes like he’s wondering whether the paycheck cleared at the bank. The supporting cast appropriately supports Hauser and the dog with as much personality as the concrete pylons supporting a raised freeway. They’re only in the picture to act as cannon fodder and to pick up an easy screen credit, and they know it. My biggest problem with "Watchers 3" wasn’t the lousy special effects—you’ll find yourself looking for the zipper on the Outsider creature—nor did it have anything to do with the gore (which is quite good). Nope, I had problems with the plot holes, holes that were so huge you could feel your body jounce as the movie rolled over them. For example, why send Ferguson and the team to fight the Outsider when all the brass wanted to do was rid themselves of the one man who knew about the project outside of themselves? Why not just stage a helicopter crash over the ocean and be done with it? For that matter, why not have someone stick a shiv into Ferguson in prison? Because the script said so.
From the trailers included on the DVD, I’m assuming "Watchers 3" came from the company owned by the venerable Roger Corman. Previews for "Humanoids From the Deep," "Watchers 3," "The Unborn II," and "Not of this Earth" provide a welcome respite after suffering through this Predator knockoff. Seriously, if you like cheesy films you’ll probably want to give this one a watch. Too, Wings Hauser completists (Is there such a thing?) will want to add this one to the stack.
About Watchers 3 (1994)
Starring: William Butler, Frank Novak, Gregory Scott Cummins, Wings Hauser, Daryl Keith Roach, John Linton, Lolita Ronalds, Ider Cifuentes Martin, Carlos Gonzales, Christian Meier, Matt Singer
Director: Jeremy Stanford