Saturday, October 12, 2013

Night of Terror #11: 'Peeping Tom'

Sorry for the delay in getting this posted, but yesterday was my birthday and I spent it watching a movie about this horrible blond creep who's way too obsessed with movies. What a screwball!

I'm talking about Peeping Tom, the best horror movie ever made about horror movies. The most fascinating thing to me about this movie (and probably a good explanation for why it wasn't appreciated by anyone when it first came out) is how it seems to predict and comment upon the phenomenon of slasher movies well over a decade before that genre would hit its full stride. Why is it so fascinating on a primal level to watch people get hacked apart by knives and other sharp weapons? Isn't that a little sick?

And Peeping Tom tops every slasher ever made in the weaponry department: Carl Boehm's Mark Lewis kills his victims with a knife that sticks out of his camera tripod (he must have gotten it from SkyMall, hahahaha). It's all part of his obsession with fear, and more acutely his obsession with the image of fear, as well as screen images in movies. To put it bluntly he's movie-crazy, apparently due to myriad traumas inflicted on him by his scoptophiliac father.

But there's no point in me trying to pick apart the subtext in Peeping Tom - that ground is well-worn and you'd need a lot more space to do it effectively. But for such a thematically rich movie it also just works as a horror movie, albeit a pretty grim one. There are splashes of humor and the visual feast is overwhelming. It's as if director Michael Powell thought of the moviegoer's eyeballs as ravenously hungry beasts, always craving more and more images, and sought to overstuff them like the "Gluttony" victim in Se7en.

Comparisons to Psycho and pretty much the entire filmography of Brian De Palma have also been made to the point of repetition, but it's still pretty incredible to watch Peeping Tom and see so much of cinema's future history at 1960 laid before you. Here's a scary thought: Maybe Mark Lewis wasn't crazy, maybe he was just ahead of his time.

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