Saturday, March 19, 2011

Someone’s Watching Me! (1978)


After his low-budget triumph Halloween (1978), director John Carpenter spent a brief, transitional interlude cranking out made-for-television movies before returning to the big screen for the glossy horror spectacle The Fog (1980). The first of Carpenter’s telefilms, Someone’s Watching Me!, is a forgettable thriller in the Hitchcock Lite mode, and it bears relatively few of Carpenter’s signature stylistic and thematic signatures, even though he wrote the script in addition to directing the piece. Superficially, the picture hews to Carpenter’s early-career trope of strong heroines—model-turned-actress Lauren Hutton plays a woman who realizes she’s being ogled from afar by a dangerous admirer, and then fights back. Presented in the boxy visual style of standard ’70s television, which inhibits Carpenter from creating his usual widescreen artistry, Someone’s Watching Me! also suffers for the fact that the director didn’t score the piece himself, since the minimalistic synthesizer music he composed for his early pictures was a major part of his fearmaking toolbox. To his credit, Carpenter sometimes eschews bland camera coverage for imagery that’s outside the TV-movie norm—tracking shots down corridors, vignettes set in cramped spaces, and such. Carpenter’s dialogue also has flashes of sardonic bite, though the dialogue would have benefited from sharper characterizations and stronger performances. Ultimately, however, Someone’s Watching Me! was merely a blip in Carpenter’s career, because his next TV movie, the critically acclaimed Elvis (1979), helped vault him back into features. Still, for the glimpse it offers into a filmmaker’s development, Someone’s Watching Me! is mildly interesting—and it was also the first project on which Carpenter worked with actress Adrienne Barbeau, who plays Hutton’s gal pal. Barbeau later appeared in Carpenter’s The Fog and his 1981 release Escape from New York, in addition to becoming Mrs. Carpenter from 1979 to 1984.

Someone’s Watching Me!: FUNKY

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