Thursday, March 16, 2017

Someone's Watching Me (1978)








DIRECTOR: John Carpenter

WRITER: John Carpenter

CAST:

Lauren Hutton
Adrienne Barbeau
David Birney
Charles Cyphers
Grainger Hines
Len Lesser
John Mahon
James Murtaugh

PLOT:


Leigh Michaels has just moved into a beautiful new high-rise apartment. It's not long before she begins receiving creepy phone calls from an unknown person. She reports the incidents to the police but when the police don't take her seriously as the creepy caller hasn't actually made contact with her or caused any real danger. She decides to take matters into her own hands and tries to find out who this unseen stalker is and who has been harassing her.







Going into John Carpenter's apparently long-lost TV movie, Someone's Watching Me! I was pretty darn excited. It's another one of the horror masters films that I hadn't yet seen. Released the exact same year that John Carpenter unleashed his iconic slasher movie Halloween, I had high hopes for this film even if it was made for a TV audience. I expected another great early addition to his filmography. After watching the film, I found that I thoroughly enjoyed a movie that felt very inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window.

Someone's Watching Me! gives me one of my favourite final girls that I think I've ever seen in a genre film. Leigh Michaels is one sassy woman. I like that from the very first moments of the film that we meet her, she doesn't take crap from anyone. Even when she starts receiving the threatening calls, she handles them like any other very quick-witted and smart person, with one-liners. Even the men in the film look so intimidated by her, and I loved that about this movie. She was a character that I actually cared for and very much liked.

Leigh Michaels is played to perfection by Lauren Hutton. I think she embodies the character. I was in love with her attitude. She oozed sass and sexuality. I loved that we weren't dealing with the typical horror virgin but a strong-willed woman. I loved that she wasn't afraid to make the first moves on a man. I think that had this been written any other way, it may have killed the entire film because I think the entire movie hangs on this performance. It needed to work, and it works here. It's the winning element for me.

Another element that I enjoyed about the movie is that they keep the identity of the stalker hidden right until the very end of the film. We only hear a voice on the phone just like the original Black Christmas. Most of the movie is handled in a way that it's either a creepy phone call or through the lens of a telescope which felt very much like Rear Window. This kept the mystery of the stalker pretty intriguing. It's just sadly not a very shocking reveal. It is essentially nobody important to the story. I thought that it was one of the films only letdowns.

Where the movie also has issues is pacing. I think this is very slow burn and at times, the film does drag. This isn't as heavy on the creepiness and suspense like his iconic Halloween. This is more light fair, and I found myself checking my watch at certain points. The movie isn't heavy on set-pieces. This relies heavily on the phone calls to try and build suspense with only several scenes where the stalker gets closer to his victim. It feels very restrained for a John Carpenter film. I think being a TV movie, he would've had to keep this toned down.

The set-pieces in the film are few and far between. I quite enjoyed the scene where she hides in the drain while the killer stands right above her. I also thought that even though the reveal wasn't shocking that the final attack scene was a lot of fun. What ruins this moment is the editing where she continues to grab for the same piece of glass which looks like the same shot over and over again. They don't do it just once or twice, but it feels a dozen times before she actually uses it to stab someone. It kind of kills the tension of this scene.

When it comes to the supporting cast, it's always great to see the iconic genre actress Adrienne Barbeau starring in a John Carpenter flick which she has done many times. I think while in her pretty small supporting role, she delivers. I also thought her scene towards the end was very inspired by Rear Window and see's her get the best scene in the film. David Birney as Leigh's love interest Paul is also great in his role. I think he did a solid job of playing the guy who is there to support Leigh as she tries to track down this stalker.

Lastly, the direction from John Carpenter is excellent. I think from the opening credits which felt very inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho right up until the final scene, the flick looked great for a production that was made for television. You can always count on John Carpenter to deliver some great visuals. I think he was really inspired by the films of Alfred Hitchcock and Bob Clark and it can be seen all over this one. While he couldn't take it to the same places on a dark level, it is enough to see that this is a homage of sorts.







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is attacked and choked to death.
- Someone is stabbed in the back of the neck with a shard of glass.
- A woman is choked and almost thrown off a veranda.








While not up there with Assault On Precinct 13, Halloween, Escape From New York, Halloween, They Live, The Fog or Christine, this is John Carpenter delivering a pretty entertaining TV movie. The movie is held up by a sassy and fun leading performance by Lauren Hutton, a talented supporting cast, great direction from the horror master and at times, solidly built tension. This feels like Carpenter doing his own homage to Black Christmas and Rear Window. Worth tracking down and giving it a watch.

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