Ever have a feeling somebody’s watching? Often, the most terrifying suspense thrillers are based on the paranoia of being watched. Since Halloween is almost here, we’re sharing five of the best scary movies about surveillance, spying, and stalking.
Alfred Hitchcock mastered the terror of spying
Generally, the fear of surveillance lies in feeling watched, listened to, or otherwise violated in private moments. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 thriller Rear Window masters the flip side. The rabbit hole of surveillance — and the terror of realizing you’ve gone too far down that hole — is the premise of the Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly film.
The late Roger Ebert explained in a review why the scary movie is so compelling; just as Stewart’s photojournalist character is trapped in a wheelchair, the audience is also trapped “inside his point of view.”
“When he passes his long days and nights by shamelessly maintaining a secret watch on his neighbors, we share his obsession,” writes Ebert. “It’s wrong, we know, to spy on others, but after all, aren’t we always voyeurs when we go to the movies?” However, he sees a bit more than he can handle, and his world rapidly spins out of control when he becomes convinced that he witnessed a murder.
Rear Window is a masterful take on karma. Looking in on the lives of others sometimes comes with a heavy psychological price.
‘The Conversation’ is a scary movie that explores the consequences of electronic surveillance
In the same vein, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974) updated the concept for the time. Recording devices took the place of a still camera in an invasive new era of surveillance. Gene Hackman stars as surveillance expert Harry Caul. Hired to follow an unknowing couple throughout the city and record a conversation, it goes south quickly.
He becomes obsessed with the recorded conversation. Moreover, he becomes convinced that someone is in danger. Coppola expertly shot the film, paranoia pervading every frame. It’s the kind of eerie thrill that makes you habitually survey a room for possible recording devices.
It’s worth watching just for the iconic final scene.
‘I See You’ features terrifying in-home stalkers
Much more recently, Helen Hunt stars in I See You (2019), a distinctly creepy chronicle of blissfully ignorant lives. The lead detective on a serial child abduction case, played by Jon Tenney, experiences disturbances to his home and family as he unravels the mystery. Look up the term “phroggers” if you want spoilers.
To sum up, it’s a terrifying depiction of how much one can pay for not knowing how close to home the real danger can be. In other words, no one is safe. It’s a riveting and gut-wrenchingly scary movie.
The Truman Show (1998) showcased Jim Carrey a serious role. TV executives record every minute of Truman Burbank’s life, in a twisted experiment not unlike the ones we now habitually watch and call “reality TV.”
But Truman doesn’t know millions watch him. Everything that happens to him is a manipulation by megalomaniac producers.
The chilling part about The Truman Show is that it’s not far off base. Squint a little into the future and it’s entirely possible. In a world full of handheld surveillance devices, it’s likely happening to someone you know.
Finally, the late Robin Williams stars in the psychological thriller 1 Hour Photo in 2002. The uniquely scary movie is a visually stark reminder that anything can be an obsession in the hands of a mentally distubed individual. As 1 hour photo developer Sy Parrish, Williams transforms from comic genius to terrifying creep. His infatuation with one family whose photos he develops spins out of control.
If you’re looking for less conventional scares this Halloween, any one of these scary movies is sure to make you check your locks and draw your curtains.
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