Friday, November 1, 2013

Watcher in the Attic

A pervert crawls around the attic of his apartment building, using little peepholes to spy on the other occupants. One day a woman, while receiving oral sex from a clown (clownilingus), notices his watching eye... and likes it. This sets the two down a wicked path of violence and perversion, starting with murder and getting increasingly worse from there.

Edogawa Rampo (say it out loud) was a popular Japanese author who wrote in the horror and mystery genres, and often added a little pinch of abberant sexuality for flavor. Based on his story of the same title, with elements of other stories added (most notably "The Human Chair"), Watcher in the Attic is a slow, disturbing, erotic drama that only gradually morphs into something like a thriller. One's enjoyment (if one can be said to enjoy a movie that mainly delights in repelling the audience with extreme perversion) is largely dependant on how interesting one finds the sex on display. I watched this with a group of friends and family ("fun for the whole family"- something no one ever said about this film) and interestingly none of the men (except myself) enjoyed it, but the ladies did.

Partly this might be because these particular ladies were less jaded than these particular men, and could still be shocked/repelled/fascinated by this sort of thing. But I also think it might be because, despite shades of misogyny you can find in a lot of exploitation films (and Japaense ones in particular), it has something of a female sexual empowerment theme at its core. Sexually, it's the woman who has the power for most of the film (the watcher is, until later on, figuratively impotent, only a voyeur). Although her desires are increasingly extreme and evil, she is pro-active and dominant. The film is not shy about female sexuality and pleasure the way so many movies, still to this day, can be.

Watcher in the Attic, though slow, is nicely shot and staged and eventually works its way to at least one accomplished suspense sequence (the old "poison via string coming from the ceiling" gag that I think Rampo might have invented). It's not conventionally entertaining for much of the film, but the perversity on display is genuinely provocative and imaginative, and the thrust of the central relationship (one of those stories about two crazy lovers who fuel their own self-destruction) grows increasingly compelling, right up to its abrupt, apocalyptic ending.

Rating: B

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