Year: 1960 

Director: Michael Powell 

Cast: Karlheinz Böhm, Anna Massey, Maxine Audley 

Peeping Tom is a UK film that was ahead of its time.  It is sometimes compared to Hitchcock’s extremely successful and critically acclaimed Psycho, however, unlike Psycho it was not well received at the time, despite a modern cult following.  It lacks the explicit visuals of many modern horror films yet there is something very unsettling, disturbing and fascinating about this film even 50 years later.  Part of that fascination has to do with a subject that is deeply disturbing, the idea of snuff films; killing someone on camera.  The movie follows an introverted focus puller who works for a British film studio and the disturbing obsession he pursues in his free time.  He refers to it as a documentary that he is working on, meanwhile people are turning up dead. 

Part of what makes Peeping Tom so interesting is how it portrays the main character.  Unlike so many horror movies from the early days of film that feature purely evil villains and monsters, this movie explores in greater depth the psychology of the main character.  He is rounded out, and his motives are explored, which makes the movie all the more engrossing.  In some respects it is more satisfying.  Of course, that sort of psychoanalyzing of characters is much more common place in modern movies and television, but at the time, it must have been alarming to audiences when they started to feel sympathy for a man involved in such hideous crimes. 

Another interesting aspect worth looking for and contemplating while watching the movie is the subtext which discusses the use of film within this film.  It is an exploration not only of psychology, but of filmmaking and the motives and mindset of those behind the camera and those who consume that which is recorded by the camera; both moving and still pictures.  The main character works in the “legitimate” world of film, but he also takes suggestive photographs for a man who sells pornographic and suggestive material behind closed doors, and then there is his “documentary.”  He is part of what is accepted, what is underground but consumed, and part of what is taboo and criminal, yet they all have to do with film.  

Karlheinz Böhm is fantastic as Mark Lewis.  He manages to depict the perfect blend of awkwardness and menace.  Peter Lorre springs to mind; creepy, but vulnerable, and Böhm’s performance keeps the viewers glued to his every mannerism.  He is driven by his damaged childhood and his obsessions, but at the same time he is clearly fighting his awful urges, so while hopefully most reading this short article aren’t tempted to kill, I think he does sort of hold the mirror up to our own behavior, as we try to keep control of our own demons, but at the same time are tempted to act out and satisfy our more primal and sinister desires.  Peeping Tom is both smart and spine tingling.  It is a must-see, especially for fans of thrillers and horror. 


I’m one of those people who likes to celebrate a holiday for a whole month (or, if it’s Christmas, like….. 3 months). So once October hits, I like to break out my good ol’ Halloween movies. I’ve always tried to add one more to the list every year, but I think I’ve kind of added everything I can think of. I’m a big fan of scary movies that keep things more in the imagination rather that blatantly showing all the scares. Usually, the mind can create something much, much scarier than any director can put on the screen. So, naturally, that leads me to the classics.

The Uninvited
This is probably my favorite horror film. I think it’s the best of the haunted house films, because the ,ystery of the haunting isn’t just random, it’s closely tied to the characters. It makes the story a lot more interesting and you can become more emotionally invested. It’s also a really wonderful combination of ghost story and love story. The Uninvited really is more about the characters than anything else, and it’s how they connect and react to the haunting that makes this movie so great. And it has Theresa Russell, who was a beautiful actress with quite a lot of talent and a unique, kind of serene aura. Unfortunately, personal life drama kept her from achieving the huge success she could have had.

The Haunting
There was a remake of this movie in the 1990s. And it blows. Hard. The original is so good and scary because it’s very ambiguous, and it’s left up to the imagination to decide if the haunting is real, or just in the imagination of the main character. Director Robert Wise creates one of the creepiest and most unsettling atmospheres I’ve ever seen in a film by showing pretty much nothing at all and completely leaving it to our imaginations. It’s really very, very scary. And so much better than the remake, which showed EVERYTHING and left nothing to the imagination.

I Walked With a Zombie
Jane Eyre with zombies. That’s pretty much what this movie is. An updated Jane Eyre with zombies. I don’t like the classic voodoo zombie as much as I like the flesh eating zombies of modern day film, but zombies are cool no matter what. This movie is completely an exercise in atmosphere. That’s what this movie really is. It’s all about the creepy and unusual atmosphere. We, the viewer, really feels like Frances Dee’s character, in this new, unfamiliar, completely strange and frightening world. She gives a really good performance in this, mixing the character’s strength with a palpable fear.

The Old Dark House
This is a light chiller, which at times has a somewhat comedic tone to it. However, even with that lighter tone, it still manages to be incredibly eerie. Director James Whale knew how to direct scary movies (he directed Frankenstein). The house of the title is big, ominous, empty, and genuinely frightening. And Whale knows how to compose shadows and how to light moments and characters for the maximum effect. The house’s story is actually interesting and unfolds in a surprising way that makes things ever creepier. This is a just a really good movie.

All right, I’ve got a lot more movies to go. To Be Continued!

By Katie Richardson