November 1, 2008 [The Watcher in the Attic]

Klaus Kinski in Crawlspace slunk through ducts and down passageways to spy on and do nasty things to the female tenants of his apartment building. I don't recall whether I've actually seen the movie or just read about it—but I'm certain of the look on Kinski's face as he wriggled and peeped, gave in to his (I think Nazi) impulses, and made sure we got ourselves a horror film.

But that was in the '80s somewhere, a decade before the Japanese Watcher in the Attic I viewed last night as the Midnight Madness finale of our annual Halloween Roundup. From noon to the dead of night we let the right ones in—like that icy Swedish tween-vampire movie we watched last week—and, the kids safely in bed, at midnight I stuck Watcher in the Attic into the DVD player, assuming I was going to get some typically goofy-twisty J-horror from days gone by.

But, like The Honeymoon Killers, The Watcher in the Attic is a "horror" film only in the sense that it fills one with horror—and maybe that's it, then, the place where all the funhouse monster movies go to die: into a picture like this in which oneiric fetishists hide in the furniture so that they can be sat on and clowns rub their whiteface on a killer's shoulder, lipstick-on-your-collar morphed into a queasy snail's-trail smear. The guy hides like Kinski, but it's a whorehouse this time, and every customer has a kink. But none matches the watcher's, he's ready to go all the way, and together with his love-em-and-kill-em prostitute-ideal they murder and make love—until a literal earthquake comes along at the end, the only thing the Earth could manage to match that monster-couple's couplings. Oh, the earth moved, all right, but in their hearts it felt like a big crispy beetle squashed, their own deaths the last climax, as horror-movie a horror as one could hope not to see.

Yes, a horror film's job is to transgress—but this one squeaks and gibbers like the "sheeted dead" who couldn't bear the end of things in Rome and left their graves to wander into the house and scare me with recognizably human indulgences long after midnight.


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