Category Archives: Reviews

WATCH THIS: John Carpenter’s “Lost Film”, SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME!

This piece originally appeared on iHorror.com.

A pretty, sandy-haired young woman is stalked by a mysterious figure; first via car, then by creepy phone calls, and then directly outside her window. He’s even seen in the background spying on her while she converses on the phone. She eventually takes the shadowy figure head-on, stumbling around a living room and fighting for her life, ending with a climax that reveals nothing about the madman’s motivations. Oh, and the whole thing was directed by John Carpenter in the late ’70s. Gotta be Halloween, right? Wrong.

Though it wrapped shooting two weeks before Halloween even went into production, John Carpenter’s television directorial debut, the NBC-produced Someone’s Watching Me! was actually released one month after Halloween. Due to this loopy timeline it’s easy to think Halloween informed many stylistic choices of Someone’s Watching Me!, when in reality it’s the other way around.

Leigh (Lauren Hutton) is an ambitious television producer who moves from New York to Los Angeles. She settles in a large high rise apartment, the kind where the living room is basically one giant window overlooking the thoroughfare. Unbeknownst to Leigh, a creeper who lives in a building across the street spots her and takes a real liking to her. He starts following her, calling her, and leaving her gifts. She continually rebuffs the mystery man, causing him to pursue her more aggressively. With the support of her co-worker Sophie (Adrienne Barbeau) and her boyfriend Paul (David Birney), Leigh goes to the police. Tired of the cat and mouse game, the creep finally attacks.

While not an exact Halloween clone, Carpenter admits SWM! did lay the groundwork for what would become his slasher masterpiece. “A lot of the shots, the framing – and a lot of the flow”, would be reused for Halloween. Carpenter also says, “I got to make mistakes”, referring to the TV movie, which allowed him to hone and sharpen the basic idea and deliver a much leaner and ultimately more frightening movie with Halloween. There are a few familiar Carpenter players in the small cast, namely Adrienne Barbeau and Charles Cyphers. And if you pay attention, you’ll probably spot some names in SWM! that Carpenter would later reuse, including Leigh, Paul, and Officer Tramer.

Noticeably absent from SWM! are a few trademarks Carpenter’s films would come to be known for. He had no input on the score, so here his usual piercing synths are substituted with dramatic, swelling strings – common in ’70s television productions. And his stunning wide-angle lens shots – usually courtesy of Dean Cundey but here provided by Robert Hauser – have been cropped and tightened to fit the 4:3 aspect ratio of a TV screen. Still, the movie displays all the great themes the director would come to be known for, including voyeurism and paranoia.

Watching SWM!, it’s clear that Carpenter who, in 1977, was still new to the horror genre (at that point he only had two feature films under his belt: the sci-fi satire Dark Star, and Assault on Precinct 13, a dystopian Western exploitation flick), was heavily inspired by the works of Alfred Hitchcock – mainly, South By Southwest, Rear Window, and Psycho. At times it feels like it could be entitled Alfred Hitchcock’s Halloween, and I mean that in the best way possible. For a TV movie made in the ’70s, SWM! is incredibly suspenseful and flat-out spooky. The tension builds, keeping you guessing until the very end.

Someone’s Watching Me! is often called “the lost Carpenter film” due to its relative scarcity on home media, but don’t let the hoity-toity label exclude you – I assure you it’s not just for the John Carpenter completest. In fact, I would consider it required Carpenter, especially if you’re a fan of Halloween. It’s one of those special movies that shows its director in transition; especially powerful here since Carpenter’s next film would prove to be his greatest success.

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“XX” (2017) REVIEW

Since the release and warm reception of both V/H/S and The ABCs of Death in 2012, there have been a proliferation* of anthology-style horror films, more than a few of them sequels to the aforementioned titles. Despite an almost overabundance in those 5 short years, there’s been no real lack of creativity when it comes to theme for these films: the V/H/S series focused on our favorite nostalgic medium, ABCs were alphabetical bursts of horror, and from there Tales of Halloween took place on the spookiest of nights, Southbound dealt with a hellish highway, and Holidays bloodied up some of the most recognizable calendar dates. Continue reading “XX” (2017) REVIEW

“High-Rise” (2016) REVIEW

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If you took the claustrophobic paranoia and shaggy-haired chic of David Cronenberg’s apartment complex horror, Shivers (1975), added a bit of plastic personality and debaucherous decadence from Mary Harron’s American Psycho (2000), and filmed it all through Stanley Kubrick’s surrealistic dystopian lens, the result would probably be pretty close to High-Rise, the new film from director Ben Wheatley, based on the novel by J.G. Ballard.

Now if you think that description sounds like the final product might be a bit too chaotic and disjointed, well, you wouldn’t be wrong. Although all the 1970s set design is absolutely stunning to look at, the overall final product often feels disorganized. That’s not to say High-Rise isn’t an incredible and enjoyable film – it is. It’s just a lot to take in. Continue reading “High-Rise” (2016) REVIEW

“Green Room” (2016) REVIEW

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The way I felt watching Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room this weekend is the way I imagine unsuspecting French audiences who saw the short film L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat back in 1896 felt. Totally blindsided by moving images of a train up on the screen, the Parisian moviegoers ran screaming in terror to the back of the theater for their own safety. The film was so real and so visceral that it had an actual physical effect on them. It’s the type of reaction that film can (and honestly should) have on audiences, and it’s something this oft-jaded viewer is constantly in search of. Continue reading “Green Room” (2016) REVIEW

“Hush” (2016) REVIEW

Sometimes I watch a movie and it feels like the writer took the first simple premise that popped into their head, immediately pitched it to a producer without fleshing it out, and dusted their hands of the whole thing.

“Here’s my idea: it’s a home invasion movie, but, get this – the girl who lives in the house? She’s deaf.”

“Is that it?”

“Pretty much.”

“Congrats, kid – you got yourself a picture! Here’s a check.”

I imagine everyone shaking hands afterwards and patting backs in a satisfied manner while wearing big, shit-eating grins. Movies! Continue reading “Hush” (2016) REVIEW

“The Invitation” (2016) REVIEW

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This review is entirely spoiler-free.

The month-old trailer for The Invitation is one of a rare breed. Cryptic, creepy, and alluring, it’s an anomaly among today’s trailers which seem to want to show as much as they possibly can in their 90 second runtimes. Even though nothing is revealed – except for the movie taking place during a dinner party – it’s very clear that something isn’t right at this dinner party. But trailers can oftentimes be deceiving. Is the movie able to deliver on the ominous, mysterious tone in the preview? Continue reading “The Invitation” (2016) REVIEW