Palatable: Someone’s Watching Me!

Someone’s Watching Me! (1978)
Directed and written by John Carpenter
Produced by Richard Kobritz, Anna Cottle
Starring Lauren Hutton, David Birney, Adrienne Barbeau, Charles Cyphers, Grainger Hines
Unsolicited, progressively suggestive gifts purported as promotional items delivered by a travel agency accompanied by menacing phone calls aren’t the sorts of romantic overtures for which a television station’s glamorous program director (Hutton) might’ve hoped when she relocated from NYC to her posh luxury apartment in Los Angeles. Her composure’s corraded by a stalker surveilling her with a powerful telescope and hidden bug until she enlists the aid of her apt production manager (Barbeau) and unruffled, professorial new boyfriend (Birney) to investigate her agitator as his advances escalate to murderous intent. Helmed with Hitchcockian pizazz by Carpenter months prevenient to the Halloween shoot, this televised umpteenth homage to The Master is essentially an inverse Rear Window replete with its bright, breathy lead, impuissant police investigator (Cyphers) and wireframe animation accompanying opening credits (evocatively imitative of Saul Bass’s NXNW introduction) that dissolves to a described establishing shot. It’s as tightly and cunningly composed as any of his most renowned flicks, and Carpenter enhances his script of modest ingenuity with considerable creepy devices at a painstaking pace evidencing a prowess that’s twice regrettably negated by the brazen swells of Harry Sukman’s overbearingly timeworn score; one can’t help but wonder just how much better this could’ve been if Carpenter — also a composer who’s always appreciated the petrifying potential of silence — had time and liberty to score his scenes. His cast’s every bit as competent: in her prime, Hutton’s a combatively appealing lead whose charisma’s occasionally overshadowed by the charm of the auteur’s future spouse, and both Birney and frequent collaborator Cyphers are unobtrusively fine, if typecast. If it’s the least of Carpenter’s early pictures, this derivative teleplay still patefies the idiosyncratic quality of his craftsmanship.
Recommended for a double feature paired with When a Stranger Calls.

Mediocre: Halloween II

Halloween II (1981)
Directed by Rick Rosenthal
Written by John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Produced by John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Barry Bernardi, Joseph Wolf, Irwin Yablans, Moustapha Akkad, Dino De Laurentiis
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Dick Warlock, Charles Cyphers, Pamela Susan Shoop, Jeffrey Kramer, Hunter von Leer, Lance Guest
Carpenter and Hill were no slouches as power couples come, producing a few original, indelible contributions to cinematic genre corpora until their divorce and subsequent career divergence propelled them to greater individual successes. Howbeit, this competently crafted yet sluggish sequel to their classic slasher hit won’t be recalled as one of their best efforts: their pedestrian script, the score by Carpenter and frequent collaborator Alan Howarth and Rosenthal’s perfunctory direction all resound but feeble echoes of the antecedent movie’s potent and idiosyncratic horror. Commencing contiguous from the prior pic, lumbering, implacable, inexplicable mass murderer Michael Myers slowly stalks Curtis’s effete schoolgirl while amassing a fresh body count, himself pursued by Pleasence’s increasingly crazed and prehensile psychiatrist. It should be riveting, but despite a few chillingly grotesque murders, this plot plods pari passu with Myers himself, and the fine cast merely replicates their activity (and in Pleasence’s instance, his exposition) of the previous outing. Moreover, a laughably stale consanguine revelation cheaply undermines the antagonist’s mystique. It’s a tolerable slasher, but by ’81, a battalion of flicks glutting the genre created by Clark and popularized by Carpenter were yielding much more intriguing and bloody offerings than this rather limp iteration.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Halloween.