Peeping Tom review by The Grim Ringler
I have seen a lot of movies during my life, and I mean a lot, but few have been as chilling and as disturbing as Peeping Tom, and thats a good thing. At least for me.
Peeping Tom is a thriller in the vein of an Alfred Hitchcock film, but much, much darker. It tells the story of a young man that grew up scrutinized by his father and his fathers obsession with fear and its effects on the psyche. Mark, the title character, is obsessed with watching people, but more than that his obsession takes that a step further, forcing him to film people so he can experience this film later, deriving a dark pleasure from both the watching and the re-watching. His obsession has taken a turn towards the dark though as he begins setting up murder scenarios in which he plays out a scene in which the women are to be frightened to hysterics before he murders them with an implement hes created on the cameras tripod. He films and catalogs each murder, studying them for something he cannot place his finger on, never seeming to find what it is he is looking for. Everything changes for Mark though when he befriends his downstairs neighbor, a pretty woman named Vivian that sees the sadness and isolation in Mark and wants to change that, perhaps seeing the same in herself. And Mark does change, but the obsession lingers, festering and itching until he can kill again. Creating grim snuff films to study, perhaps seeking the true face of fear, a face his father had created in him so many times as a child. Things begin to spiral out of control for Mark when he kills a young stand-in at the film studio he works at and the police begin to get closer and closer to the killer they have sought since his first murder. And suddenly Mark, insisting to all he is making a documentary, perhaps sees an end to this film he is making, and now needs jut to put the final pieces into place. And so the final act begins with Mark caught between the hope of Vivian and a normal life, a real life that he can live and not just watch, and the obsession, an obsession that has created him into a voyeuristic death junkie. But time is running out for Mark and a choice must be madeunless the obsession has already made his decision for he and Vivian.
This is a wonderful film, as much a horror film as it is a straight thriller. The disaffected performance by Karlheinz Bohm is amazing, coming off as if he isnt even human and doesnt quite now how to be as Vivian tries desperately to save him from himself and a secret she knows he is hiding. There is an air of dread and perversion that nearly suffocates the viewer as you watch Mark make his private snuff films, wondering what it is he could gain from them but needing to see what he sees and how he sees it. And suddenly we too are voyeurs as we watch things unfold, desperate to see how deep the well in Mark is and if there can be a final salvation for he and Vivian. Which is the brilliance of the film, we are pulled so deeply into this world that we become part of it, seeing what Mark sees and, as we learn about his past with his father, feeling what he feels. Mark is sick, but he was made to be sick, it was only a matter of time until he finally gave into his darker impulses.
The film is brilliantly shot and lit and gives everything a surreal, Expressionistic feel, as well as reminding the viewer of the best of the Hitchcock films. Its rare to find such a film now, let alone in the sixties, that is willing to take the risks that Peeping Tom does.
The disc looks amazing, the colors really coming through in the Criterion transfer. As for extras, well, there isnt much, the disc only really sporting an interesting documentary on the film as its major feature, but this is a film that speaks for itself, to be sure.
I cannot recommend this film more highly. Dark, disturbing, and scary in ways most modern films attempt but never achieve, Peeping Tom is the best type of horror film the kind that is horrifying because its real.
9 out of 10 Jackasses