OCTOBER 24, 2007
Despite being my favorite filmmaker, I’ve never gotten around to seeing either of John Carpenter’s TV movies. Elvis is still not available on DVD and bootleg copies are said to be atrocious in quality, so that’s OK, but I even owned Somebody’s Watching Me! on a bootleg for a while, and STILL never watched it until today (on the newly released DVD, which came with the Twisted Terror Collection). As it turns out, I really wasn’t missing much.
Granted a TV movie doesn’t hold much promise, but Wes Craven’s Invitation To Hell was a lot of fun, and since Halloween only had to lose some nudity in order to be fit for national broadcast, there was no reason to believe that this couldn’t at least be a good, if not great, effort from the days when Carpenter actually gave a shit.
But it’s mostly a bore. There aren’t many characters, and since we know Lauren Hutton will survive, it doesn’t really give the film much to do until the climax. So instead we get lots of not very interesting phone calls, Hutton palling around with Adrienne Barbeau (playing a lesbian, which I think had to have been pretty rare on national TV in the 70s), developing a relationship with a guy we know isn’t the killer, etc. In addition to Barbeau, Charles Cyphers shows up, giving the film some much needed additional true Carpenter feel (the film isn’t even shot 2.35:1, which is pretty much standard for Carpenter; even the additional scenes he shot for the TV broadcast of Halloween were shot in Panavision), but it’s not enough to elevate this above any generic Lifetime movie.
That is, with the exception of the borderline mentally unstable actions that Hutton commits during the film, particularly in her introduction. Her dialogue, and her character in general, is mind-bogglingly awkward. Upon looking to rent an apartment, she makes up a story involving her mother dating an aluminum siding salesman (?); when she meets a guy she tells him that she’s afraid of being raped by dwarves (??); plus she has a habit of talking/singing to herself at all times, often making puzzling comments throughout these monologues as well (calling her TV “Cyclops”, daydreaming about her new boss being 80 years old and hitting on her...). It’s just fucking weird, to the point of being genuinely upsetting. Shouldn’t this woman be getting some help, instead of building telescopes and getting her friends killed??
Yes, poor Barbeau gets murdered when trying to help Hutton discover the identity of her stalker. It would be sad anyway, but Barbeau’s character was offered a job in another state earlier in the film, and Hutton talked her out of it. What the hell kind of friend is so selfish that they would put their own insecurities over their friends’ financial and career wellbeing? Even if she DIDN’T get killed, Hutton should be ashamed of herself!
One thing I dug about the film – its Hammer style ending. Like a lot of Hammer films, the movie ends exactly when the killer dies. We don’t need a wrapup, we don’t need to see her moving into a new building, or anything like that. Killer’s dead, movie’s over. It’s even more refreshing being from Carpenter, who ended nearly all his films on an ambiguous note (ironically frustrating, given his hatred of sequels).
It’s certainly not a bad movie, but you gotta wonder why, AFTER Halloween, Carpenter would bother with this sort of thing. Nowadays it wouldn’t seem strange, but back then he was truly a master of horror/suspense, and this certainly doesn’t have any evidence to support it.
What say you?