As Halloween (1978) was being released theatrically, John Carpenter’s made-for-television thriller Someone’s Watching Me (1978), alternately known as High Rise, premiered as a movie of the week on NBC, November 29th, 1978. This ambitious and successful suspensor showcases a young director’s will to be recognized as a master of terror. Carpenter’s competent direction and intelligent writing make Someone’s Watching Me, a movie that general audiences will enjoy, and a movie that John Carpenter fans will scream for.
This movie is bigger than the budget and the screen it was made for. Originally conceived for theatrical release, Carpenter took the advice of television producer Richard Kobritz and adapted Someone’s Watching Me for the small screen. This is probably why the movie advances at a more cinematic pace than most television movies of the respective period. When compared to the low budget pictures Carpenter directed for the big screen, you can really see the director taking advantage of a union situation to get the most out of his set pieces with Someone’s Watching Me. The principal photography was completed much faster than Halloween, but the overall product feels more properly produced, and that’s saying something because Halloween is a benchmark film.
Someone’s Watching Me works as a horror film because it plays on the ultimate fears: invasion of privacy, fear of delusion, and the imposition of an invader’s will upon your own. That makes it consistent with Carpenter’s theatrical work, however, the film would have been ultimately more effective if the director had also written the music. The television composer’s cues are too pedestrian for Carpenter’s superior visuals.
Even when there is little happening on screen, Carpenter keeps the camera fluid and the writing witty. The situations are relevant to the development of both the characters and the story, so even the filler scenes are engaging. Like Halloween, Someone’s Watching Me never loses the steam it gathers, and that steam meanders through a few unsuspected cracks in typical plot building to keep the story fascinating and the scenarios sellable. I give Someone’s Watching Me four slashes out of five on the slasher scale, and I recommend this movie to all audiences.
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