The Netflix Mystery Thriller Series Inspired By Terrifying True Story Of Obsession

By Charlene Badasie | Published

The 2022 mystery thriller The Watcher is streaming on Netflix. The seven-episode series, loosely based on a 2018 article from New York magazine’s The Cut, was adapted for television by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan. The story revolves around Nora (Naomi Watts) and Dean Brannock (Bobby Cannavale), who move into their dream home in a fictionalized version of Westfield, New Jersey.

The Watcher Is Horrifying Because It’s Real

The Watcher begins when the Brannock family, Nora, Dean, and their children Ellie (Isabel Gravitt) and Carter (Luke David Blumm), attend an open house at 657 Boulevard hosted by Karen (Jennifer Coolidge), a realtor and Nora’s old friend. Despite some odd experiences, the family decides to purchase the house, even though it would deplete their savings.

It Starts With A Simple Letter

Six weeks after moving in, the Brannocks are greeted by eerie occurrences, including music from an empty room and a letter from someone called “The Watcher,” threatening to harm Ellie and Carter. However, a skeptical Detective Chamberland (Christopher McDonald) dismisses the situation as a prank, but the family remains on edge.

The Situation Got Worse

Over time, the Watcher’s letters become more ominous, prompting the Brannocks to hire private detective Theodora Birch (Noma Dumezweni). Over time, she uncovers a dark history plaguing the house. Her investigation eventually connects the Watcher to a family massacre committed by the previous owner, John Graff.

The Real-Life Incident

The Watcher mirrors the real-life experience of Derek and Maria Broaddus, who received threatening letters upon moving into their Westfield, New Jersey home in 2014. The first letter, addressed to “the new owner,” initially welcomed the Broadduses to the neighborhood but quickly took a menacing turn. The mysterious writer claimed a familial connection to the house: “It is now my time.”

An Unhinged Stalker

The letter delved into the home’s history, questioning the Broadduses’ knowledge of its secrets. The tone slowly grew more threatening, accusing the family of greed. The Watcher also demonstrated an unsettling knowledge of the Broaddus family’s activities, scolding them for renovations and threatening to kidnap their children.

Police Never Found A Suspect

After failing to sell the house, the Broaddus family never moved in and opted to rent out the property instead. But even after the new tenants arrived, The Watcher persisted with the letters. Despite extensive investigations and DNA testing, the stalker was never apprehended. The Broadduses eventually sold the house at a considerable loss in 2019, ending their haunting ordeal.

The Real Neighborhood Became Famous

The Watcher series featured on-location scenes filmed at a private residence in Rye, New York. The Brannock family’s motel scenes were shot at an operating motel in Locust Valley, Long Island, New York. Although no scenes were filmed at the real 657 Boulevard in Westfield, the neighborhood witnessed increased attention following the series release.

A Critical Flop

The Watcher received mixed reviews from critics following its Netflix premiere, citing their displeasure with the story sprawling in too many directions. As a result, the series only managed a 54 percent critic rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Although viewers didn’t care too much for the series either, evidenced by the 35 percent audience score, there have been talks of a second season.