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 flambé 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.
Flambé... 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?