Even though the made-for-TV thriller Someone’s Watching Me! debuted in November 1978, director John Carpenter actually filmed the picture prior to making his breakthrough hit Halloween, which debuted in theaters a month before Someone’s Watching Me! reached the airwaves. In nearly every possible way, the telefilm is, at best, a footnote to Carpenter’s storied career. A forgettable suspense flick in the Hitchcock Lite mode, Someone’s Watching Me! bears relatively few of Carpenter’s stylistic and thematic signatures, even though he wrote the script in addition to directing. That said, the project 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, then fights back. As for the plot, the premise tells the whole predictable story. Stalker notices girl, girl begins to suspect something is amiss, close encounters hint at looming danger, and finally a confrontation happens. Along the way, there’s a whole lot of voyeurism, but because the project was made for television, none of the Brian De Palma-esque kinkiness teased by the setup materializes. It’s all quite bland, as is Hutton’s star turn. Occasionally, Carpenter eschews flat camera coverage for imagery that’s outside the TV-movie norm—tracking shots down corridors, vignettes in cramped spaces, and so forth. Better still, Carpenter’s dialogue has flashes of sardonic bite. Yet the realities of the project dim any hopes for bravura storytelling. Adhering to the boxy visual style of ’70s TV prohibits Carpenter from creating his usual widescreen artistry, and it’s a drag he 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. As a cinematic experience, Someone’s Watching Me! is thoroughly underwhelming. Yet for the perspective it offers on a filmmaker’s development, the picture is mildly interesting. It was also the first collaboration between Carpenter and actress Adrienne Barbeau, who plays a supporting role. She later appeared in Carpenter’s The Fog (1980) and Escape from New York (1981), in addition to becoming Mrs. Carpenter from 1979 to 1984.
Someone’s Watching Me!: FUNKY