Mark Lewis, works as a focus puller in a British film studio. On his off hours, he supplies a local porno shop with cheesecake photos and also dabbles in filmmaking. A lonely, unfriendly, sexually repressed fellow, Mark is obsessed with the effects of fear and how they are registered on the face and behavior of the frightened. This obsession dates from the time when, as a child, he served as the subject of some cold-blooded experiments in the psychology of terror conducted by his own scientist father. As a grown man, Mark becomes a compulsive murderer who kills women and records their contorted features and dying gasps on film. His ongoing project is a documentary on fear. With 16mm camera in hand, he accompanies a prostitute to her room and stabs her with a blade concealed in his tripod, all the while photographing her contorted face in the throes of terror and death. Alone in his room, he surrounds himself with the sights and sounds of terror: taped screams, black-and-white "home ... Written by
Unsuccessful as horror but successful as a tribute to Powell's career
PEEPING TOM is a thin excuse of a horror movie. If you're watching it as a horror film, PEEPING TOM will look very self-indulgent and needlessly melodramatic. Personally speaking, I didn't buy the story for one second. It looked more like a cleverly constructed homage of the director's career than a real horror film. The film is mostly a pity fest: tortured, misunderstood artist who's totally possessed by his need to express himself through, in this case, a most deadly artform of capturing death on film by killing the women (and only women) he meets. As usual in these kind of "tortured artist" stories, there's a woman who falls for Mark and the thing sorta becomes a tragic love story (thank god Alfred Hitchcock didn't write a love interest for Norman Bates in PSYCHO). The idea of Helen (wonderfully played by underrated Anna Masey) falling for Mark is ridiculous and totally forced. The clunky premise isn't helped much by the unconvincing psychology behind the killer's motivations: his father tortured him when he was a kid and yet Mark, as an adult, only kills women. Okay. Things only got less subtle, with Helen's mother being a blind woman who's all seeing and wise which SCREAMED to me that the film was more of a not-so-subtle symbolic exercise from Michael Powell about himself and his career as a filmmaker than anything else. The fact that Michael Powell himself played the domineering father in the black and white home movies and that the kid who plays young Mark was Michael Powell's real son and the fact the home movies were shot where Powell grew up as a kid only reinforced the whole self-indulgent aspect of the movie: me, me, me! This obvious self-indulgence in the story and direction killed ALL attempts at horror.
But if you watch PEEPING TOM as a tribute to Michael Powell's career, made by Michael Powell himself, well, the movie is suddenly fitting and brilliant. Fitting as a tribute because PEEPING TOM suddenly became Powell's last "major" movie after the uproar it created when it was released. PEEPING TOM, or the controversy surrounding the movie, basically killed Powell's career as a serious filmmaker. The elaborate behind-the-scenes moments or the scenes with Moira Shearer (who worked with Powell in THE RED SHOES) dancing around the studios say more about the famed filmmaker than the film's tortured character. Watch PEEPING TOM as some sort of elaborate post-modern tribute to the director. Don't watch it as a horror movie. It's just too melodramatic and self-indulgent to create anything close to disturbing or creepy.
9 of 14 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?