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Slasher Sundays: Peeping Tom (1960)

Written by Culture, Film

Psycho might be renowned as the first ‘slasher’ film, but Peeping Tom pre-dates Hitchcock’s masterpiece and is far more reminiscent of the genre that the late 70s would form, making it arguably the true beginnings.

This 5-star thrilling horror from well-renowned director Michael Powell brings forth a killer who snapshots the final moments of their victim’s gruelly demise. This concept makes the final product an almost surreal watch that’s all too tangible, comparable to future releases such as Maniac (1980) and Rituals (1977).

Related: Screams on Screens!: Rituals (1977)

The killer is portrayed by the unbelievably talented Karlheinz Böhm who gives a performance that rivals Anthony Perkins in the Pyscho series, as he has a youthful charm and handsome demeanor, whilst also bringing forth an unsettling social awkwardness as well as a darker and more morbid side that unfolds when his true nature rises to the surface. Even if the film didn’t sport fantastic direction, it’d be worth watching alone for Böhm.

Something that must be said about Peeping Tom, as well as its fantastic shots, stunning score, and haunting lead performance, is how well it has aged. Psycho feels more dated despite coming out briefly after Peeping Tom, which is in part due to Hitchcock’s style, the black-and-white as well as the more 50s aesthetic. Peeping Tom, by comparison, feels ahead of its time, more akin to 70s slasher than 50s horror, which ultimately makes it more digestible for a modern onlooker taking a stroll into film’s past.

Peeping Tom is more accessible to modern audiences.

Whilst I adore 50s film, the silent movies of old and Hitchcock’s library of classics, I must stress that Peeping Tom is more accessible to modern audiences, because it’s an underappreciated and overlooked horror that needs be watched by all self-proclaimed cinephiles, and it’s simply a classic slasher that I simply cannot recommend enough. It didn’t re-invent the genre, it didn’t popularise it, it didn’t make waves, but with Black Christmas, the Canadian classic that solidified the formula of the 80s that Halloween popularised, feeling so similar, is it truly a stretch to say that it likely inspired what came after it, more so than Psycho? I’d argue not.

So, give Peeping Tom a try. The camera work is phenomenal and it is truly a flawless work of art that has aged like fine wine. This addition to the growing library of Slasher Sundays marks the near completion of the catalog of decades, leaving only a gap in the 2000s. If you’re looking for a flick from the beginning of the 21st century to delve into, give Cry_Wolf, Final Destination, Hatchet or Jason X a spin. Until the next one, happy belated Friday the 13th.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Featured image credit: IMDb

Last modified: 15th March 2020

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