50/50 Review #33: Peeping Tom.

I've mentioned in the past, but generally my recommended Netflix rating is pretty spot on with how I'll feel about a movie. I very rarely end up giving it a full star below or above the original rating. But it's even more rare for it to be two full stars above or below--in fact, I can't recall the last time that happened. But it happened here. Mark (Carl Boehm), a cinematographer, is addicted to voyeurism. He carries around a video camera everywhere he goes, but only uses it in extreme circumstance... particularly when he's killing someone with it or filming reactions to his kills. But one day he befriends the downstairs neighbor, Helen (Anna Massey) and vows never to harm her. But his kills begin getting investigated, and he must find a way to keep from getting caught while finishing his "documentary."

I wasn't sure what to expect going into this, especially since it only had a 3.3 rating for me--pretty average. But as it started, and the longer it went on... I couldn't help but love everything this movie does. It's such an intensely philosophical film. It explores fetishism, particularly voyeurism and the fascination with fear. The dichotomy of characters and theme is fascinating, especially the idea that the film's antihero is addicted to watching people and his biggest adversary is blind. But I think why this film is so famous and "dangerous" is actually its meta quality. It's a horror film about a guy who gets excited watching people get scared and then die... as you're getting excited watching people get scared and then die (while simultaneously possibly being scared yourself). It's absolutely brilliant.

It also has some brilliant pacing and tension building. There are really only three deaths in the entire movie--one at the opening, one in the middle, and one at the end. But you still feel the suspense throughout. Every scene builds so much tension as you never know what's going to happen next. This film has been compared to Psycho, but I'll be honest... as much as I like and appreciate Hitchcock, I vastly preferred this over Psycho. The twist in Psycho is fantastic, but to me... the twist in this film is more "twisted" and frightening. The shower scene is classic, but I like how this film builds the tension better. I won't begin to compare Mark to Norman, though.

But I will talk about the characters of this film. Mark is a Dexter-type character. He might be a psychotic serial killer, but you root for him. You want him to have a happy ending. You want him to get over his sickness and get the girl. Despite his awkwardness, you really feel for the guy, and Carl Boehm acted the part very well. And Helen's mother was chilling in her role, and you were never quite sure what was going to happen between her and Mark. But if the film has a downside, though, it's with the character of Helen. She's just too unrealistic. After such a bizarre first meeting, there's no way she'd be even more smitten with the guy. And then there's the ending, which I have trouble believing for a second.

But besides that, the only other issue I had was minor. The little corner store confused me. I couldn't figure out if he worked there or what. I assumed he did, but he also worked on a movie set? It was just never made clear, and the corner store is never really there except for the only two scenes that the plot and/or theme needs it for (the beginning and the end). I think either that could have been explained a little better or something else should have been done with it. But it's a minor quibble.

Anyway, I was in heavy 'like' with this film for the majority of it. But as it went on, gave us some brilliant scene and some gorgeous camera shots, and came closer to the end, that like turned to love. It's just so fantastically made all around. And believe it or not, I didn't even think about the whole meta quality to it until the very, very end (maybe the last 3-5 minutes). And that just solidified it for me. This is a rather fine philosophical thriller, and I think everyone should see it at least once.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

(P.S. That'll wrap up James' Month! I'll say... this was a really interesting month. A very diverse set of films. Two of them I outright loved (this and Sherlock Jr... both having meta qualities, too. Imagine that). One I liked quite a bit, despite not generally caring for the genre (Once Upon a Time in the West). One I actually didn't care for all that much except for the cinematography and soundtrack (Suspiria). And one that I ended up liking a whole lot more than I thought I would, especially an brilliant car chase sequence (We Own The Night). In fact, I could say that about the majority of this month: I was pleasantly surprised with just about all of it. I ended up liking almost everything a lot more than anticipated; ironically, the one I was anticipating the most was the only one I didn't care that much for. Anyway, now it's time to move on to the next month... provided by my very own podcasting partner, Steve Honeywell.)


  1. Yes! I freakin' love this movie and I'm really happy that you seem to like it as much as I do. As far as I know, you're the only person aside from me who likes this more than Psycho.

    I'm equally excited that you're starting on my month next. You want some predictions?

  2. Definitely some predictions. I had fun when Jason did that in his month.

    1. ...and the prediction can't be "Nolahn's month is the best." That one's already been made.

  3. Of all the films, this is the one I was most confident you'd enjoy. The meta aspect, the horror elements and just how twisted it is in just the right way made it one of those films I knew I had to recommend to you.

    And you hit on just about everything that makes me love this film as well. I, too, prefer it to Psycho. I think it's more disturbing and I like Mark as a character a lot more than Norman because you do feel sorry for him, which makes him even creepier to me.

    Glad you enjoyed this month. You made me want to watch all these films again, like right now.

    1. Norman Bates definitely has some memorable lines and moments, though. But then again, so does Mark. And yeah, you really do feel for the guy.

  4. Okay, here you go:

    The Devil's Backbone: It should get one of your highest two ratings. I'm hoping it hits the top one, since that's where I'd put it.

    My Favorite Year: I think it's a really underrated film, and I love it. It'll be above the middle, but near the middle for you. It kind of depends on your mood when you watch it.

    Double Indemnity: You'll like, but probably not love, this film, and your problems will be with its 1940s-ness.

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers: You'll like it about 10% less than the 1970s version.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.