Friday, October 29, 2010

The Seduction

A sexy, young local newscaster starts receiving creepy phone calls from "Derek," who unbeknown to her is a photographer who lives across the street and likes to take pictures of her from his window. She tries to brush him off as a harmless weirdo, but of course he's a dangerous stalker, and its only a matter of time before his obsession veers into deadly territory.

The real "find" (although I guess technically I found him two years ago, when I first saw Tourist Trap) for this year's YVIAHMMAOIHTNQ is David Schmoeller, a director mainly unknown today who worked in the era of John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper and Brian DePalma and notably shares some of their aesthetic talents . Crawlspace, an elegantly sleazy slasher movie with a great villain performance by Klaus Kinski, proved that Tourist Trap wasn't a fluke. And Catacombs, if a disappointingly typical Exorcist knockoff, still showed a real sense of style and intelligence often missing in that particular subgenre. (He also did Puppetmaster, which I recall hating, but now I wonder if I should give it another shot).

I knew I wanted to work one more of his films into this month's activities, and it was between The Seduction and what appeared to be a Full Moon cheapie called Neatherworld. Since Seduction sounded not unlike Crawlspace, I was more stoked to check it out.

Voyeurism is one of my favorite themes common in thriller and horror movies. Obviously, the concept of someone watching you from the shadows is a creepy one. More importantly, though, voyeurism works well because it goes hand-in-hand with the medium: film is a type of controlled voyeurism, offering the same thrill of watching someone who doesn't watch us back. This isn't a new insight, and horror films from Peeping Tom onwards frequently comment on the voyeuristic elements of the medium.

The first 2/3rds or so of The Seduction effectively exploits this, inviting the audience to watch the reporter as the villain does, making us uncomfortable for sharing his hobby. The film's polished style, upper class settings, and cheesy 80's score are somewhat reminiscent of late night, softcore, cable pornography, and I don't think its entirely accidental. Two of the film's most effective sequences (the opening scene where Derek photographs the heroine swimming nude from his apartment, and a later sequence where he hides in her closet and watches her undress) seem like commentaries on the objectification of women in mass media. The heroine is a reporter, getting by in part on her good looks, and her first line in the movie is something like "I like being watched." (spoken to her boyfriend). By making the villain a photographer, Schmoeller might even be implicating himself in all this.

It's Hitchcock by way of Zalman King, at least for a while, and makes for an effective thriller, before throwing it all out the window by becoming a standard issue, overblown serial killer movie during the finale. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, for a neat twist or some indication that things weren't going to play out by the numbers. And for a few minutes, the film teased me that this would happen: the heroine turns the tables on the villain, the watchee because the watcher, etc. This would have been an appropriate turnaround for the film, but instead it devolves into a standard, boring action movie climax complete a life or death struggle in the bedroom, shotgun blasts galore, and a worthless plot device of a character arriving with clockwork timing to save the day.

I'm still supportive of the film for the first 2 acts, and still plan to see more of Schmoeller's films, but there is a lot of wasted potential on display here.

Grade: B-


Andy Sandwich said...

Where are your updates man? I'm interested in hearing whether the new Saw is worth seeing.

Dan said...

Sorry. Gonna try to get a few up tonight. We were out of town over the weekend and I haven't had time since we got back. I have 5 final movies for the month to blog, and we just got back from Saw 3D tonight, so I will do a separate, non-yviahmmaoihtnq post about it soon.