Fans of John Carpenter – take note – you may not have seen them all. Warner Brothers has released a six-pack of hard to find horror entities of recent days gone by, called the Twisted Terror Collection – released on September 25th, 2007. Among the titles is a WB produced, made-for-TV movie that originally aired back in November of 1978. It stars Lauren Hutton and Adrienne Barbeau, and is called Someone’s Watching Me. Its directed by the master, John Carpenter, and is now finally available from just about anywhere DVDs are sold, for your curious eyes to view.
Having seen everything by Carpenter, from Assault and Dark Star to Ghosts of Mars and the Masters of Horror entries, I was surprised to know that there was yet another film out there that had slipped by me somehow. If you have not seen it, and suddenly find yourself getting excited to see the next Escape From New York, Halloween, or The Thing, calm down immediately. This was a made-for-TV film, and toned down by every censor known to man, so any edge this story may have had as a theater released feature has been sanded down to be so soft-edged that typical Carpenter fans may want to pass on this one, but for curiosity.
In Someone’s Watching Me (also known as High Rise), the story opens with a trembling, mentally-wiped woman answering the phone, telling an obsessive creep on the other end of the line that she can’t take it anymore, and that she is moving from the apartment. Old-fashioned foreshadowing – prepping you from the start as to what will happen to our character, model/actress Lauren Hutton – who moves into the same building, loves LA and living with the shades drawn open wide. Call by call the harassments begin, as do the break-ins, and her psychological hell to follow.
The plot is simple and has been done several times over in other forms – the details in Someone’s Watching Me changing slightly. Her stalker lives in the hi-rise directly opposite her windows, so the telescope comes in quite handy – as does the bug he places in her apartment. He has master keys to everything in the building, as you later discover (not to anyone’s surprise) that he works there, and can control lights, open doors, stop elevators – pretty much anything. Lauren Hutton finds a boyfriend, and befriends her lesbian co-worker Adrienne Barbeau, and in time they are all dragged into a deadly came of cat and mouse, or hide and go seek. Blah blah blah. Change sceneries, garages, elevators, the apartment – stalk, hide, tremble. You get the picture.
Included on this DVD is a very interesting 10 minute featurette titled, John Carpenter – Director Rising, which is basically a monologue of Carpenter explaining how Someone’s Watching Me falls into his filmography. Notes of interest include how this is the first of a series of films with Adrienne Barbeau, Someone’s Watching Me in 1978, The Fog in 1980, and Escape From New York in 1981 – and how Carpenter had met his future wife (who he married in 1979) by working with her on this set. These were the days before health clubs on every corner, plastic surgery and breast implants. Babes came natural back in the day, and Adrienne looks pretty damn good in this movie – its easy to see how he became interested. Charles Cyphers, who typically is in everything Carpenter makes, is a welcome sight in this, playing a hard-nosed stubborn detective, a role obviously carbon-copied from that of Officer Starker two years earlier, who’s legendary question – “Why do they call you Napoleon Wilson?” – was unfortunately never answered in Assault on Precinct 13, or to this day.
Someone’s Watching Me was also a warm-up in many ways for Halloween. Halloween began shooting only two weeks after this film had wrapped, and many of these early similarities can be noticed by a Carpenter-seasoned eye, even without Dean Cundy filming the shots, or Carpenter’s fingers behind the music. Other than these factors of interest to horror genre buffs, the tension of Someone’s Watching Me is weak at best, and much more suitable these days as something you might let your kid watch for a late night fright without pornographic over-the-top sex or violence littering the experience.
Final Analysis: Before satellite TV, DVRs, and even cable – back in the 70’s your best hope of catching an original non-theater released feature was by tuning into the prime time movie of the week on NBC, or the like. This is the crib that this baby falls from. And amidst the litter of Carpenter’s children, Someone’s Watching Me is nothing more than the boring little brother who you never see around the house. This might raise curiosity as to what he’s like, but once you meet him, by Carpenter standards, you’ll pretty much be bored to death and send him back to his room. Someone’s Watching Me was filmed before *69 and caller ID – maybe even answering machines – because every time the phone rings, somebody HAS to pick it up! I guess if they didn’t pick up, this stalker would probably have to put on a mask and make house calls. Do yourself a favor – ignore the horror-hope-inducing Carpenter name and let this one roll over to voicemail.