Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Never Heard of It: Someone's Watching Me

I consider myself to be a huge John Carpenter fan. Assault on Precinct 13 was the first film I reviewed on He Shot Cyrus. I own a number of his films including Pro-Life, his installment in the Masters of Horror series. And while I claim to be a so-called "fan," there was not only a Carpenter film I had never seen before, but had never heard of either. The film is called Someone's Watching Me. It was brought to my attention by Whitney at Dear Jesus. How did I miss this one? It must be terrible. All I know about Someone's Watching Me is the title and the director. Here we go with week two of Never Heard of It.

The film opens with shots of various pieces of surveillance equipment. Tape recorders, telescopes, and a mystery man talking on the phone. He makes a creep call to a woman named Elizabeth. There's just something about the words "Sweet Dreams" that creeps me out. Always has.

Live Feed Comment: (0:1:26) "I hope this is a rip-off of The Conversation. Also, do I own Enemy of the State?"

Interesting title sequences have a way of sticking with me. Someone's Watching Me's opening is incredible. A bright red screen gets covered in thin white lines creating a grid-like look. The music plays as three bold white letter sweep toward the camera: SOMEONE'S WATCHING ME. The red eventually fades away into a tall building, the red is replaced by concrete walls and the white squares are replaced by windows. If someone knows how rip videos, this one should end up on YouTube for me.

LIVE FEED COMMENT: (0:02:12) "Who's Lauren Hutton? Sounds familiar..."

Fresh in from New York City, Leigh, needs an apartment in the new city. Apparently she needs a job too. Her first interview at a local TV station goes well and the interesting blonde who talks to herself too much gets hired. She meets Sophie, a crackshot lesbian television director, who will probably be my favorite character in this movie. After Sophie warns Leigh about the skeezy guys who work at the station, it's back to the apartment where we can all assumme the real trouble will start.

LIVE FEED COMMENT: (0:14:29) "Who played the mom on E.T.? I don't think it was this woman. 'Dee' something. Damn. That gonna bug me."

LIVE FEED COMMENT: (0:14:44) "Dee Williams! She was in Poltergeist too. So who the hell is Lauren Hutton? Looks familiar."

LIVE FEED COMMENT: (0:15:45) "Woah! Something creepy just happened. I don't want to spoil it for you. If Danny DeVito's smiling by the end of this movie, check it out and keep your eyes open around the fifteen minute mark!"

So like the title implies, Someone's Watching Me is a stalker movie. The "Me" is "Leigh," the "Someone" is undetermined, and the "Watching" is done through telescopes. Leigh's stalker has planted hi-tech bugging devices around her apartment and when the creepy phones calls start, the audience is left guessing a little less than the protagonist. Some people hate when the viewer knows more than the main character. I usually don't mind if it's handled correctly. Someone's Watching Me does a so-so job. Thanks to these bugs that we're aware of, there are a lot of how could he know that scenes were Leigh and her friends try to figure out just what's happening to them.

One pitfall that Someone's Watching Me manages to avoid is the I Met a New Man, I Think I Like Him but in Twenty Minutes I'll Suspect HIM of Being the Stalker cliche. Leigh meets Paul and they hit it off. I was hoping Leigh and Sophie would hit it off but maybe that's too much to ask for. Come on, Mr. Carpenter, you shot a little girl through her vanilla cone, you can have two women fall in love.

LIVE FEED COMMENT: (0:27:50) "I bet John Carpenter's against Prop 8. Good for him."

The second act moves a bit slowly. That being said, the film is a pretty decent thriller. It avoids the temptation of melodrama and shows the stalker's ability to slowly wear this strong woman's will down. When a telescope shows up at Laurie's apartment, along with written instructions from the Peeping Tom, it's clear the stakes have risen. When an orange polka dot bikini shows up, Tom's intentions seem pretty clear.

The second act ends on a suprisingly high note. When the police pull their He Hasn't Done Anything Wrong routine, Leigh takes matters into her own hands. She's got a suspect and she's gonna track him down. Down in the laundry room, Leigh does some stalkling of her own. In a pulse-raising scene, Leigh hides underneath a metal grate as her stalker stand on top, smoking. He drops his cigarette down and leaves before giving Leigh a good look at his face. Apparently, these were the days before DNA testing. I would have taken that cigarette straight to the closest DNA lab and ran some tests. Then I would have listened to The Who.

LIVE FEED COMMENT: (0:55:45) "If someone is watching you through your windows, describing the clothes you're wearing, asking you to take them off, etc. then what possesses you to have sex with all the blinds open?"

LIVE FEED COMMENT: (1:05:31) "Hey, they're arresting Uncle Leo from "Seinfeld." The one with the pen that writes upside down. The astronaut pen. It's only an hour into the movie. I bet he's not the guy."

The third act is REAR WINDOW. Woman runs across to the next building over. Friend watches her progress from her apartment through a telescope. Tension builds. Someone gets attacked. The only things missing are flash bulbs and the oddly humorous sound of Jimmy Stuart yelling.

The film has quite a few strengths. Leigh is a very interesting character (who likes to talk to herself all the time). Sophie and David are well-rounded supporting characters who don't ever lose faith in their friend's story. If there's something more annoying than knowing more than the main character, it's watching all the supporting characters treat the protagonist like they're crazy. That never happens in this movie. Leigh is strong on her own but accepts the offered help from her buddies and lovers.

A final showdown between Leigh and her heavy-breathing Crank Yanker was a must. This is one creepy scene. She enters her apartment to find that the guy's already been there. The numbers in her phone have been removed. The electricity box has been messed with. The locks are broken. She moves through the darkness and just when you think the guy's not in there, he jumps on her. Not going to give away the ending, but it did put a smile on my face. It might be someone you expected. It might come out of left field. You'll have to rent it (or e-mail me) to find out.

I don't know how I could have missed this movie. The film has a very different feel compared to the other Carpenter films I've watched. It's possible that someone else wrote the screenplay (I meant to watch for the writer's name during the opening titles) and Carpenter filmed it. Either way, it's a pretty decent thriller with a few standout scenes and moments. I know it wasn't released before Precinct because the only feature he made before that was the offbeat sci-fi comedy Dark Star. Now, if you've never seen Dark Star, check it out. It got a DVD release and it's definitely worth ninety minutes. Can I say that about Someone's Watching Me? I'll let Danny DeVito decide. If you've forgotten what the Glad I Watched It rating system looks like, click this link.

Glad I Watched It Rating:

1 comment:


Just watched CHRISTINE for the first time. Got to check this one out!