Director – John Carpenter
Cast – Lauren Hutton, David Birney, Adrienne Barbeau, Charles Cyphers, Grainger Hines, Len Lesser, John Mahon, James Murtaugh, J. Jay Saunders, Michael Laurence
Release Year(TV) – 1978
Reviewed by John of the Dead
TV horror movies are hardly ever mentioned in the horror realm simply because they are hardly ever worth watching. They lack gore due to TV standards, and tend to be even more cliché than “real” movies given they are exposed to a wider TV audience compared to a movie-going audience. Nonetheless, a few great ones have come out over the years, such as It and Salem’s Lot, and now I give you one from one of horror’s greatest directors…John Carpenter. Fresh the success of one of horror’s greatest films EVER, Halloween, he gave us a made-for-TV thriller about a woman being stalked while in her apartment. Someone’s Watching Me! is a simple film does more as far as chills and thrills than most Hollywood wide-release films, simply as a result of excellent writing and direction from a true horror maestro.
This flick stars Lauren Hutton as Leigh Michaels, a hot shot live TV director relocating to LA from New York. She finds a nice luxurious apartment with an amazing view thanks to it’s many windows, and immediately makes it her own. Immediately after moving in she begins to receive strange phone calls, and many tell-tale signs that someone has been entering her apartment while she is away. Soon enough she begins to receive strange packages in the mail, letters, and other strange occurrences happen around the apartment. Leigh is beginning to lose her mind over this escalating harassment, but the police are not able to help her until the stalker actually does something “to” her. Forced to take matters into her own hands, she tries to fight back against this psycho, and the results are deadly.
You can imagine my un-amazement at this actually being a great TV film, I mean, this is early John Carpenter for crying out loud. I did have some slight doubts at first, simply because I am unaware of the leeway he would have with this film. Thankfully it seems Carpenter got as much as he could into this film and it worked just fine. Personally, I enjoy these types of phone-calling stalker films. If you are alone and in a new place, anytime the phone rings with a creep that knows your name, where you work, and other various details about you it is downright scary. Unless of course…you own guns like I do. Heh. Nonetheless, John Carpenter’s direction and writing are what makes this film a joy to watch.
Right from the get-go the film takes off, with a very dreadful mood thanks to great atmosphere and camera work. Carpenter makes use of a very nicely set-up high rise apartment and uses it to his advantage to set up great tension without having to show you much at all. His lighting is excellent, and his slow pans of the apartment leave you knowing that somebody evil is hiding there, but you never find out who or where. Awesome. Carpenter’s writing flourishes thanks to his development of our lead protagonist, Leigh Michaels. At first she is a hard-nosed “business first, everything else second” type of woman, but by the end of the film she is crumbling at the thought of losing this battle to some creep who cannot even show his face. Yes, that is another one of this film’s finer points, the use of the “stalker”. I loved how he was never overly close to her, which gave him the utmost amount of power. Unable to spot, he toyed with her day in and day out until he finally began to give up clues to his whereabouts simply out of boredom. It was thanks to this element and Carpenter’s great direction that this film paced so well without showing many kills nor any great action. This film is about suspense, and it succeeds at that.
Overall, this is a great made-for-TV film that I recommend to fans of Carpenter’s work, as well as those in the genre who would like to see a film show you very little but give you a lot. It doesn’t seem possible, but with Carpenter at the helm, it is.