Plot: Leigh Michaels (Lauren Hutton) is a television producer who has just moved into a new apartment as part of a plan to start fresh, in an effort to leave the past behind after a bad breakup. But while a change of scenery can make a world of difference, Leigh has no idea her new apartment complex is already in the cross hairs of an eerie, obsessed maniac. This creep spies on the women of the building through his powerful telescope, then makes prank calls to keep his victims on edge. While Leigh’s fresh start seems to be going well thanks to new friend Sophie (Adrienne Barbeau) and new love interest Paul (David Birney), she feels unsettled by her new apartment, as if she is trapped in a glass box. As the stalker with the telescope takes a deeper interest in here and begins to escalate his tactics, can Leigh survive his obsession?
Entertainment Value: This might have been a made for television production, but Someone’s Watching Me is still a rock solid thriller that shows some of John Carpenter’s flair for genre pictures. The narrative is a capable one that allows for tense atmosphere and slow burn suspense, as well as all the usual tropes you want from this kind of paranoid thriller. I think the red herrings are fun and well handled, but I do wish we had a more interesting lead character instead of Leigh. Lauren Hutton’s performance is fine, but the character is rather dull and comes across like a passive participant in her own narrative, which is an odd approach. The atmosphere remains effective however, with a great sense of paranoia and claustrophobia, though the ride isn’t too intense, given the made for television limitations. I think it could have been punchier without those limits, but it remains a sharp thriller, regardless. So it does feel like a television production, but thanks to Carpenter and a skilled cast, Someone’s Watching Me rises above the usual tv movie fare.
I’m sure most first time viewers will be lured in by John Carpenter’s involvement, but this doesn’t show much of his signature style, aside from the obvious Hitchcock inspired touches. He directs with solid skill and squeezes a lot of tension out the material, but it doesn’t have the same feel as his more signature pictures. Carpenter isn’t the lone draw by a long shot, as the movie also boasts a good cast that is led by Lauren Hutton, who performs well, but is saddled with a weak character. Leigh is such a passive presence it is hard to connect with her, but Hutton’s performance is solid and she has an eeriness that is appreciated. I loved seeing Len Lesser in a fairly prominent role and he delivers on the kind of creepiness the role needs, which makes it rather humorous for fans of his Seinfeld work. The cast also includes Adrienne Barbeau, David Birney, Charles Cyphers, and Grainger Hines.
The Disc: Scream Factory presents the movie in the original full frame treatment, in a much improved visual effort sourced from a new 2k scan. The image is much clearer and crisper than the old DVD, with natural colors and strong contrast levels. There are some minor signs of the tolls of time, but the movie looks quite good here. You can also watch in a matted 1.85:1 presentation. As for extras, things kick off with a dull, uninteresting commentary track from tv movie book author Amanda Reyes, who stumbles through some basic trivia and well known Carpenter information. This is almost all filler and could have summed up in a couple short paragraphs as liner notes. New interviews with Barbeau and Cyphers are also present, as well as a look at the movie’s locations, an archival interview with Carpenter, still photos, and promo spots.