1 Hr., 37 Mins.
Someone's Watching Me! October 18, 2018
In the months leading up to the release of his totemic slasher movie Halloween (1978), John Carpenter wrote and directed a nifty, Rear Window (1954)-reversing feature-length called Someone’s Watching Me! for NBC. Starring the gap-toothed model-turned-actress Lauren Hutton, in one of her best, most engaging, turns, the film orbits around Leigh, an indomitable newswoman moving to Los Angeles in the name of a job opportunity at a local station. Before she can settle into her swank, high-rise apartment, though, a stalker with a whim for telescopes, recording devices, and prank phone calls sets his sights on her. This leads to a tersely drawn game of cat and mouse that climaxes with a murder attempt.
Someone’s Watching Me! was not gifted a proper DVD release until this August, which has led to its being referred to as a “lost” Carpenter movie. The billing has, inevitably, led to a certain sort of intrigue on the part of horror cineastes. Unexpectedly, given its television-based limitations, the feature lives up to, and perhaps even exceeds, its mystique. Although not a direct antecedent to the horror-and pulp-inspired science-fiction works for which Carpenter would come to be known, it fits easily into his oeuvre, effectively fraught but spattered with efficiently applied humor. Carpenter, who additionally wrote the film, does a good job establishing Leigh as a self-sufficient, difficult-to-intimidate person. As the film spirals and mushrooms in its urgency, her increasing paranoia begins to blare.
The feature’s premier element is Hutton. The willowy starlet, who acted sporadically and only fitfully successfully, is excellent in the movie, capable and confident as a Katharine Hepburn-like eccentric who cheerfully makes clever asides to herself and refuses to date unless she’s the one doing the asking out. Also good in the movie is Adrienne Barbeau, Carpenter’s John Fogerty-haired soon-to-be-wife, who plays a wisecracking fast friend. (The character, who is gay, is notable for marking an early and positive portrayal of an LGBTQIA+ character on television, too.)
Someone’s Watching Me! is great fun. Only the ending prevents the movie from reaching minor greatness. Frustratingly indirect and melodramatic, it is out of sync with the film's otherwise streamlined, savvy tension-building. It leaves us wanting more, though I wonder if that all-important “more” was, for the most part, satisfied by Halloween, which was released just a month before the film’s November premiere.
Nineteen seventy-eight was a busy year for Carpenter. In addition to co-writing and directing Halloween, he also co-penned Eyes of Laura Mars, a tepid Faye Dunaway vehicle, and Zuma Beach, a Suzanne Somers-starring comedy also made for NBC. Someone’s Watching Me!, then, is the second-best project made within those 365 days. That's not too shabby a dubbing, if you ask me. B