Directed by Michael Powell [Other horror films: N/A]
Often considered a proto-slasher, Peeping Tom is a horror classic that I’ve wanted to see for a really long time, but I have to admit to being disappointed after having finally accomplished that goal.
It’s not as though the movie’s bad, though. Peeping Tom is a very solid psychoanalytic look into a crazed killer, from the killer’s perspective (think movies like The Couch or The Strangler, both of which came out a few years later). I just didn’t find much of the movie enjoyable, and more so, found the stilted and almost inhuman conversations more awkward than anything.
While the film got terribly skewered upon it’s original release, from a modern-day standpoint, it’s hard to see almost anything in Peeping Tom that comes across as too obscene or ghastly. In fact, there’s almost no on-screen murders, and while there’s passing nudity, again, we’re talking very tame, muted stuff. What some critics saw in this movie back then, I don’t know, but I don’t see it now.
German actor Karlheinz Böhm did fantastic as the main character, a seemingly-mild but quite demented, socially-awkward killer. There’s a decent amount of character building in regards to his father and what made him into the man he is, but I definitely get the sense that more was left unsaid than what was discovered. His love interest, played by Anna Massey, was good also, but I didn’t fully understand her character (why she was so insistent on staying around Mark even after she discovered his homicidal activities was beyond me), and her blind mother, played by Maxine Audley, confused me more.
One thing I’ll say as far as surprises go, I honestly didn’t know until I started the movie up that Peeping Tom was in color, and not only that, but it looked pretty good. I’ve sometimes heard this compared to Psycho, and I guess I just mentally imagined this as a black-and-white film, but no, it’s in gorgeous color, which was nice. I just wish there was more in it worth seeing in color.
For what Peeping Tom is, I think the movie’s decent, and to a certain extent, I can understand it’s inclusion in many proto-slasher lists, but I honestly didn’t enjoy the movie near as much as I was hoping for, and given all that I’ve heard about it, I was hoping for a bit more violence and less awkward conversations. Still worth a watch, if only because it’s one of the more-commonly referenced British horror films, but it’s not one I can imagine keeping in my rotation.
This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.