Sunday 19 October 2008

View of Terror

With Shannen Doherty back in the public eye again (and, shockingly, not for throwing beer bottles) I thought it high time to dig out one of her TV movies from the wilderness years between her exit from Charmed and recent comeback with 90210. And you know what? I liked it! I’m also not alone in this possible delusion, as a surprising number of people have also left positive user comments at the IMDb. Yes, it seems that 2003’s View of Terror (aka Nightlight) just isn’t bad at all. Either that, or Shannen’s been at it with the threats again.

Both sides, huh? Guess that’s why they call it a window!

Like many a post-Rear Window voyeurism thriller, this one begins with a view through a telescope. Someone’s spying on the residents of a New York apartment building and, in particular, a beautiful female resident with some lovely lingerie but, unfortunately, no curtains. The next thing we know, she’s been tied up and left to flambĂ© in a burning apartment, as her mysterious stalker disappears with a whispered “Sleep tight, babydoll...”

SHOCK CUT! to Shannen Doherty, reaching out her hand to grab hold of a large cock...atiel. I’m not sure if this is actually meant to be a shock cut or it’s just a clumsy one but, either way, the terror of the previous scene abruptly gives way to a shot of Shannen fingering her feathered friend – which we learn is a beloved pet that goes by the name of “Kitty”. Irony? I don’t know. But I do know that pets never fare well in stalker movies, and I’ll be surprised if Kitty makes it to the final reel without ending up as cockatiel chasseur.

FlambĂ©... Chasseur... Those cooking classes are really paying off! Anyway, Shannen’s in the middle of bit of a domestic hoo-hah, breaking up with her boyfriend (Michel Francoeur) on the grounds that he’s always starting fights. (Again with the irony, Ms Anger Management!) In retrospect, it’s not the best plan, as not only is she left without a seriously hunky boyfriend but also – oops – a home. Enter her best friend and business partner, Tasha (Jayne Heitmeyer), who pulls a few strings with the building manager and gets her a place across the road in the ominously named (not really!) Sommer Building.

But wait a minute, this new apartment looks familiar. We’ve seen – or rather not seen – its dire lack of curtains somewhere before. Could this be the place formerly owned by the ill-fated exhibitionist from the pre-credits sequence? You bet your spied-upon ass it is! Soon the telescope is back, the threatening phone calls have begun, and Shannen’s starting to regret signing a one-year lease. Oh, watch out Kitty!

As TV-made suspense flicks go, View of Terror is no Someone’s Watching Me! but then it’s not directed by a young John Carpenter. It suffers from the common TV-movie affliction of having good ideas that only get developed as far as the next commercial break. (For instance, there’s a great scene where Tasha decides bring the voyeur out of hiding by performing a seductive striptease in front of her window. Does it work? Who knows, but I can tell you that Peugeot is the drive of your life.™) Similarly, the stalker’s predilection for giving his victims Saw-style “rules” to abide by is never really explored. Despite this, the plot works and even manages to feel like it’s throwing in some new twists.

I liked it that Shannen’s friend, Tasha, is seen both helping her and going behind her back when it suits, like when she sets her sights on Shannen’s boyfriend (y’know, like how people act in real life). It’s actually a shame Tasha’s absent for much of the second half. For once, the police also take our heroine’s fears seriously when she goes to them with her story, but it’s the legal complications that end up making them ineffective. These are simple touches, but they work towards making View of Terror that little bit more believable.

Not that you necessarily want a Lifetime movie to be enormously believable when it comes to providing some decent thrills, but you do want it to be thrilling. And View of Terror manages this and feels so rewatchable that I’d even consider buying the DVD. A few more like this, Shannen, and you can flip ’em the finger when they ask you to star in that next-generation Charmed spin-off circa 2014. Just don’t throw anything, ’kay?

Rating: 3/5


Anonymous said...

I liked View of Terror too!

I agree it's no Someone's Watching Me, but was an obvious influence. Still, it's entertaining and well acted. Oh wait, you pretty much said that!

I'll tell you something about Shannen that I love, she's actually fairly choosy about her film roles. Moreso now, then right after she left 90210, but she always plays interesting characters that have a lot of (believable) strength to them. They might not be the best movies ever made, but she puts a lot into them, which is why I think her following is so loyal.

I recommend Striking Poses and The Rendering as well. And I just got a copy of the uber rare Friends til the End! SHANNEN RULES!

Did I mention that I love her?

I have this sick fantasy that she, Courtney Love and I would all go out drinking one night. Gawd, that would be AWESOME!

Ross Horsley said...

I actually love Shannen too (of course) but I'd never really wondered why until I read your thoughts on her acting choices. Then I realised that YOU'RE SO RIGHT and this sort of explains why she remains so popular despite her sometimes bad-girl behaviour.

My friend has The Rendering on DVD so I'll have to borrow it and overlook the title, pretending it's called something like The Terrifying Fear! or something instead.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I just noticed your caption underneath the film's tagline. That made me laugh out loud, or LOL if you will...