The Morbid Gaze
- Peeping Tom review by HW
This came out the same year as Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ and personally I believe it is a far more sophisticated and memorable picture. Instead of relying on shocks, this chiller builds up a suspenseful, crawling atmosphere while also daring you to pity its killer.
Mark is a filmmaker and photographer who has a dark, secret hobby: murdering women and filming their last moments. There is a complex commentary on our fascination with watching morbid events on film. We are just as much a voyeur as Mark is.
Furthermore, rather than being a monster, Mark is presented as a product of a traumatic upbringing. His father was a psychologist who subjected his son to frequent unpleasant experiments while on camera. Mark is thus presented as a victim of his childhood disturbances who needs rescuing from the resulting dark desires that consume him.
A smart, complex thriller that helped usher in more realistic, modern subjects for the horror genre. It still has the power to shock not through crass shock tactics but through its sympathetic yet sinister portrayal of a sick, dangerous mind.
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- Peeping Tom review by Steve
Complex slasher prototype which was buried by the critics in 1960 who were horrified by the perverse violence and compassion for its psychopathic murderer. And it finished Michael Powell as a director in his homeland. Over time it became a cult item and now has acquired legend status, particularly among film makers. This is horror as art-film.
Karlheinz Böhm plays a photographer with daddy issues. His dead father was a psychiatrist who filmed his child for his studies into fear. And then gave the kid his own cine-camera. One day, Junior will attach to a blade so he can record the terror in the eyes of his female murder victims when he is sexually aroused. Then it gets even darker, but you get the picture...
So there's a pretty grotesque horror premise, but this is just the portal into an intricate web of subtext. It's possible to get lost in these thematic layers, but most obviously there's the connection between the voyeurism of the maniacal killer and the audience. And the manipulative dominion of the film director compared to a sick obsessive... and so on.
Maybe it wasn't what was expected in an era of social realism. Some may find it pretentious or gimmicky or offensive. But this is an immersive experience, and its lurid, trashy colour palette and discordant piano score are as much a feature of that as the unsettling themes. A personal film with an imaginative reach that never gets old or used up.
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