By Anna

Peeping Tom is about Mark Lewis’ search for peace.

Being probed, studied and filmed his entire life, it’s no wonder Lewis just wants to stay behind the camera, using it to search for what or who will fulfill him—but when they fail it means death.

Think of Johnny Depp’s character in Edward Scissorhands. He and Lewis are the same—built by scientists, now living on their own, both driven to kill. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tim Burton is a fan of Peeping Tom.

But Peeping Tom falls in the cracks of great films for the average great film lover because it’s been alluded to and fallen victim to copy-catters following its 1960 British release. Blow Up and The Graduate reflect scenes, editing and pacing of this horrifying murder mystery. The difference between these copy-catters is that their stories are a little less horrifying and have slightly less creepy leads. However, all three male protagonists are searching for something greater in their everyday circumstances—without finding it.

Director Michael Powell isn’t entirely innocent of his own copy-catting.

Watching Lewis strain after women, trying to save them while not understanding his own illness is the same story Alfred Hitchcock gives us in Vertigo (1958). The opening shot of a woman’s eye being metaphysically violated by a camera she’s unaware of reminds us of Un Chien Andelou’s opening shot of a woman’s eye being physically cut out.

These references borrowed from and stolen by Peeping Tom gives it significance in a long line of great films to come before and after it (including Psycho released just a few months after, which also depict a horrifying young man with parent issues). However, what gives Peeping Tom significance apart from its chronological existence is it makes you the voyeur as much as Lewis, as much as Powell and Hitchcock.

“Other movies let us enjoy voyeurism; this one exacts a price,” says Ebert. Hence why no one mentions it as one of the greatest horror films of all time, unlike Psycho, because it makes us uncomfortable for all our voyeurism.

Being unable to find peace, we go into that same dark room Lewis does and watch with anticipation as the horror unfolds—making monsters of us all.

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