24 January 2012

Guest Review - Ryan: Peeping Tom

When I was told I was making my first guest appearance at Horror Club in 2012 to view a “classic”, I was very encouraged. I had heard of Peeping Tom and the cult following it had gained over the years – the tale of the film is almost a movie script in itself (The film ended Michael Powell’s career, only to become a cult hit and cause many critics to re-evaluate it many years on.). I have to admit my expectations were high, as I thought I was about to view a hidden gem. What I got was a film that has many interesting and controversial themes, but does not age well at all.Having read Fin and Clarky’s reviews, it’s interesting to see the split between their views. I can understand why Clarky enjoyed the film when you break it down into its base elements – the voyeuristic themes, the use of POV camera work, its comparisons with Psycho, etc – but I have to agree with Fin, in the fact that the film ultimately falls flat because the elements on screen do not stand up to the test of time and take away from the final product.

The acting and scripting is incredibly dated, to the point that it’s almost comical. The lead character – Mark Lewis – is meant to be a cold, calculated killer, driven by the desire to see pure fear in his prey’s eyes. On screen, he’s badly acted by Carl Boehm across as an oddball loner who could barely hold a conversation with someone, let alone carry out a murder. Some may say this is exactly the point of the character – but Boehm’s performance is verging on the ridiculous, to the point that it completely removes any feeling of threat or menace, an element that is essential to a psychological thriller. Sadly, the rest of the cast also follow the same route for me – wooden and downright silly at points. Anna Massey as the “beauty” to Boehm’s “beast” - Helen Stephens - is truly terrible and cringe inducing.The biggest nails in the coffin for me are the complete lack of fear-inducing moments and a plot that is full of unbelievable coincidences. When I watch a horror/thriller, I want to be on the edge of my seat, I want to be biting my fingernails, and I want to be drawn into the film. I was never able to reach that point as I just couldn’t take the film seriously. The dialogue sounds like something out of a Mr Chomondly-Warner sketch. There’s a scene where Mark Lewis sets up an actress to meet a grizzly end and instead of it being tense and creepy, I ended up guffawing my way through it as she turned it into a dance sequence via the sixties equivalent of a boombox.

By the time the idiotic cops need a chance meeting with an on-set psychologist (yes – really) who just happens to mention “scoptophobia” (the psychological name for being a peeping tom) to finally piece it all together, I had completely checked out. Thank you Mr Powell and good night.

Look, I can understand the cult buzz around this film – it’s interesting to think how uptight British society was in the early sixties to bea so offended by a film like this. There are also interesting themes that have found their way into many horror films over the years. Some of the camera work is also quite forward-thinking, given it was made in the sixties. But I really struggle to get anything out of Peeping Tom purely as a piece of cinematic entertainment, and would struggle to recommend this to anyone other than the most die-hard fans of film history.

1 comment:

  1. Good review, Ryan. I can understand why you didn't like it, even though I tend to side with Clarky on this one.

    The only thing I would say is that I don't think Mark is meant to be a "cold, calculated killer". I think his relationship with Helen shows that he's very mixed up. Even though the acting was dated, viewing it as an audience in 2012, I didn't think he did a bad job of portraying that inner conflict.

    Either way, strong work as always. Next time you join us it's your choice again...


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