FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 12, 2006

Day 11- Hooray, that someone is me!

Straight from The Amanda Collection into my heart goes the little-seen, little-known 1978 TV movie Someone's Watching Me! As I popped the DVD in, I thought..."Hmm...the title sounds a little familiar, yet I know nothing of this so-called "Someone's Watching Me". Is it because the Rockwell son "Somebody's Watching Me" immediately got stuck in my head when the title placard appeared? I hate that song. This movie better not suck."

Then the names started appearing on the screen...Lauren Hutton...Adrienne Barbeau...and John Carpenter. Yes folks, the film is written and directed by John Carpenter, he of the fogs and the shapes and the ghosts of Mars of which we do not speak. Thankfully, this is prime 1978 Carpenter, back when he was setting about making himself a master of the craft of filmmaking.

Lauren Hutton stars as Leigh Michaels, a New York to Los Angeles transplant who takes a new job as a director at a television station. She's the pluck, independent type...a little loopy, maybe, but Carpenter's written her so she has just the slightest whiff of a Hawksian dame. Ten minutes into this movie, I'm thinking...why haven't I seen more Lauren Hutton movies? There should be more Lauren Hutton movies. She's just so fucking rad, what with that gap and all. As Amanda herself would say...WHITE. HOT.

At any rate, what Leigh doesn't know is that there's a creepy peeping tom/stalker type living in the high-rise directly opposite hers and wouldn't you know- he trains his extremely long, extremely phallic lens on Leigh straight away.

It's not long before Leigh's...admirer makes himself known. He leaves her odd gifts, like a telescope of her very own. He calls her at home, at work...he leaves notes on her door. In two extremely tense sequences, he actually invades Leigh's home. At one point, she comes home and finds the door to her apartment open. She finds no one, and when the phone rings, she takes the call. Then, in a flash, we see a black-clad figure dart through a room behind her. It's a frightening shot- a subtle, understated shot- pure Carpenter.

Later, after having sought the help of the police (who, of course, can't do anything because Mr. Creep hasn't really done anything himself), Leigh comes home and hears the sound of her shower running. Thinking it's her boyfriend (David Birney- how bitchin' is that?), she heads into the steamy room only to find this terrifying message:

Someone's Watching Me! gets its Rear Window on towards the end as Leigh figures out which apartment across the way belongs to Mr. Creep and she goes to investigate as her pal Sophie (Adrienne Barbeau) watches from Leigh's apartment and talks to her via walkie talkie. Instead of coming after Leigh, however, Mr. Creep goes after Sophie. Leigh can only watch helplessly as Mr. Creep becomes Mr. Murderer.

This early Carpenter effort is very Hitchcockian throughout. It's a tense movie, not an explicit one (it was made for television after all)- and Carpenter really knows how to use that camera to set up some brilliant shots.

As I said earlier, I liked Leigh- she's smart, she's funny- but she can be extremely frustrating as well. I mean, you know some pervo is spying on you from across the way and yet you refuse to close your drapes? Oh, Leigh, come on. I know you don't want him to control your life, but still. the supporting cast is fantastic too, from David Birney as Leigh's sweet, supportive new boyfriend to Carpenter mainstay Charles Cyphers as, of course, the detective assigned to Leigh's case. I do love a director who's loyal to his actors. Of course, let us not neglect to mention again Adrienne Barbeau as Sophie, Leigh's lesbian co-worker. Yes, lesbian. The beauty of it is that Sophie isn't there for titillation or social commentary- she Her sexual preference, when addressed, is handled with maturity- it's just another characteristic. From the outset, Sophie assures Leigh that she's "not her type". That's a good thing, because I'm sure a Barbeau/Hutton hookup would...I don't know, cause a rip in the very fabric of space and time or something for all its hotness.

The main problem I have with movies like Someone's Watching Me!, the stalker genre, is that you can be fairly assured that the protagonist isn't really in any danger until the film's end, during the confrontation with the stalker- and even then, you know that most likely the hero or heroine will escape. That's a small gripe that's aimed at the genre, however, and not so much the film itself. John Carpenter and his fine cast created a real gem of suspense here, and it makes me pine for the days when TV movies were awesome. I give it 8.5 out of 10 bitchin' gapped teeth.


Anonymous said...

Very cool, Stacie. Speaking of potential-but-not-happening lesbian TV hotness, how about Kate Walsh's detective hitting on Carla Gugino's U.S. Marshal Karen Sisco?

Anonymous said...

I love the sound of this one I so want to see it right now!

Anonymous said... about ME hitting on Carla Gugino?

Wow, I remember seeing this flick on TV when I was but a teen. Lesbians on TV - sure that's no big deal now, but in the 70s it was. At that point, Adrienne Barbeau was only known as Carol, Maude's divorcee daughter. So, she went from divorcee to lesbian. In the 70s, that was known as "risky." Of course, she DID get John Carpenter as a husband outta the deal, so I guess it wasn't THAT risky...

Marty McKee said...

A very good movie. I can't believe it and ELVIS aren't on DVD yet. Of course, I can think of a zillion made-for-TV movies that oughta be on DVD by now, but you would think Carpenter's would be high on the list. After all, I think all of Wes Craven's TV-movies are out now.

Amanda By Night said...

Marty, you are correct, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of TVMs I'd LOVE to see on DVD. Someone's Watching Me deserves the full treatment, with commentary and everything.

What a great movie! I'm SO glad you liked it Stacie! I think Lauren Hutton is a really wonderful actress, it would be almost impossible to pull off a lot of her alone time with a lesser actress. Plus I love how she picks up David Birney. It's a classic line!

The lesbian angle is dealt with wonderfully. When I asked John Carpenter about this he was very gracious. I remember I asked how he wrote such strong female characters and he replied something to the effect of "I also write about maniacs without having to be one!" Touche!

Amanda By Night

Stacie Ponder said...

I guess Carpenter just writes people as...gasp! people! It's such a simple thing to do, and yet so often characters become caricatures. And yeah, Theron, I can see how this would be "sensitive" back in the late 70s, which is part- but only part of the reason why I was so surprised by the subtlety of the approach. Barbeau's character isn't a man-hater or a psychopath, she's just...Leigh's friend. Wow! How novel! It bothers me when characters are solely defined by something as arbitrary as their sexuality- writers tend to hit you over the head with their "hipness" rather than just writing characters we can all care about. It's why I can't stomach things like Will and Grace (well, partially why, anyway)- what are the characters on that show beyond gay or straight? I realize it's a sitcom, but still...

Gah! I also realize I'm babbling.

Yes. This movie needs a brand-spankin' new DVD treatment. I love commentaries!

Anonymous said...

I worked as one of two PAs on this ultra-low budget horror film back in November '05 called PRISON OF THE PSYCHOTIC DAMNED.
Anyways, bla bla bla bla... working on the film was a LOT of fun. The actual film isn't bad but it really isn't scary. But there is a moment in it where this guy suddenly walks behind the lead, Melantha Blackthorne, which reminded me of that moment from SOMEONE IS WATCHING ME when the guy in black suddenly runs past Lauren Hutton on the phone. the last time I saw SIWM was when it first aired and I didn't remember Lauren Hutton, the title, or even lesbian Adrienne Barbeau, but I remember that moment and that John Carpenter directed it.
Unfortunately, the moment in POTPD didn't even compare... sigh...

Disclaimer: POTPD was Red Scream Films first effort at producing a horror film, not too bad, but they're unveiling their third effort this Halloween (FRIGHT WORLD) and the trailer looks way cool.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god, I love this movie, and I always wondered what happenned Hutton and what shes up to now. Well shes just singed a deal to model for spanish label Mango, looking at the pic she's still damn hot too!