Thursday, May 5, 2011

#272. Someone's Watching Me! (1978)

Directed By: John Carpenter

Starring: Lauren Hutton, David Birney, Adrienne Barbeau

Trivia:  It was on the set of this film that director John Carpenter met his future wife, Adrienne Barbeau

When writing the script for Someone's Watching Me, John Carpenter believed he was penning his next theatrical feature, but it didn't quite work out that way. Purchased by Warner Brothers, the project was instead transformed into a made-for-TV movie, yet despite the constraints a television environment would naturally have imposed upon his story, Carpenter still managed to build Someone’s Watching Me into an incredibly tense thriller.

Leigh Michaels (Lauren Hutton) is a single woman living in a Los Angeles high-rise apartment building. Shortly after landing herself a lucrative position at a local TV station, Leigh's life is thrown into chaos when an obvious stalker, who’s somehow able to see every move she makes, starts telephoning her at all hours of the night. Pushed to the breaking point, Leigh calls the police, who inform her there's nothing they can do unless the mysterious caller actually attacks her. Unwilling to wait for her assailant to make the first move, she takes matters into her own hands and sets out to discover the stalker's identity, leading to a game of cat and mouse that may just cost Leigh her life.

With such a personal, almost claustrophobic story at its center, the success of Someone’s Watching Me rested entirely with the film's two main protagonists: Leigh Michaels and the unknown caller. Fortunately, both prove engaging enough to keep the film moving along at an even pace. As played by Lauren Hutton, Leigh Michaels is no pushover; on her first day at the television studio, Leigh is tossed into the control booth of a live cooking show, and before she even has a chance to meet her co-workers (among whom is the future Mrs. John Carpenter, Adrienne Barbeau), she’s directing cameras to fade in and go to close-up. Thanks to Leigh, the show's a success, and she's even impressed her new boss, Mr. Frimsin (John Mahon), with her tenacity.

Fresh off of this victory, Leigh returns home to discover that her apartment door, which was locked when she left, is now cracked open. Instead of fleeing or calling the police, she walks in and cautiously looks around, calling out “Hello Mr. Burglar” as she peeks around every corner. From these early scenes, it's clear that Leigh Michaels will prove a formidable foe for her new “acquaintance”, and Lauren Hutton is a big reason why. In her capable hands, the strength of Leigh Michaels is brought to the surface, and Someone’s Watching Me has a main character it can build around.

Of course, Hutton’s solid portrayal would have all been for naught had the character on the other side of the equation not been equally as daunting. In the opening sequence of Someone’s Watching Me, we get to see the stalker at work, terrorizing his previous victim with yet another in what must have been a long line of threatening phone calls. In these first few minutes, we are in the world of a psychopath, seeing what he sees, hearing what he hears, yet Carpenter nonetheless plays it very close to the vest, only revealing what is needed to carry the sequence forward (we never see a face; only a hand dialing a phone, or an eye looking through a telescope). Giving his skills as a storyteller a full workout, Carpenter makes us privy to tidbits of information about the stalker, things Leigh Michaels would certainly like to know, yet at the same time keeping us as much in the dark as his lead character is. Our ticket of entry into this disturbed individual's world only takes us deep enough to provide the story with its suspenseful arc. After this initial scene, we’re no better off than Leigh, who must wait for him to make the next move, never exactly sure what that move is going to be.

More than just an early film in the career of John Carpenter, Someone's Watching Me is also infused with the director's natural talents, and is a movie that should be seen not only by every fan of the director's, but all horror fanatics in general.



Anonymous said...

sorry to diasgree sir doctor shockter but this horror movies fails miserably and is a super dated piece that dont hold up in todays time.

for one it is a made for tv horror movie which tells you right off the bat it was lame for horror. second is that the movie has the same feel of a twilight zone or even a hitchcockian feel that fails for modern audiences.

sorry again to disagree doctor but please dont take the good doctors advice on this one not worth the effort.

it took me awhile to figure out doctor how to comment wasnt even sure people could until i seen a few comments on a few reviews. surely not self explantatory maybe a little tweak would help us folks out.

thank you,

DVD Infatuation said...


Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment.

I thank you, also, for presenting your differing opinion on SoMEONE'S WATCHING ME, but honestly I couldn't disagree with you more. Being made-for-TV isn't a strike against it (SALEM'S LOT was a TV movie, and is, to this day, regarded as a horror classic). Not all horror has to be R-rated to be good.

Also, your points about it being "Twilight-Zone or Hitchcockian" is not the negative you intended it to be. I don't agree with the statement necessarily, but even if it is true, there are still many fans out there (myself included) who believe both are solid entertainment, and while the mechanisms used in SOMEONE'S WATCHING ME are certainly of the time period (reel-to-reel tape player, rotary phone, etc.), the story itself is timeless, and could easily be remade today and remain effective, so in that respect it's not dated in the least.

No need to apologize, though. As I said, I appreciate your opinion, and I thank you for taking the time to post it. If we disagree, so be it. It's always good to hear a differing point of view!

As for the difficulty in posting, I was forced to make a change recently that i didn't want to make, and it did complicate the process of leaving comments. It's a recent change (one made after the last Planet Macabre episode was posted), so I'll be explaining how to leave comments under the "new" layout on the next episode. I'm glad you were able to figure it out, but I do agree it's not very "user-friendly".

Anyway, thanks once again for your take on SOMEONE'S WATCHING ME. I do appreciate it. And thanks also for listening to Planet Macabre.