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Jay Michael Ferguson
The 11-year old daughter and girlfriend of a man whose wife had been raped and killed in front of his daughter three years earlier are kidnapped by the same killer. Held captive in a bunker below Grand Central Station, the two plot their escape while the police try to track the kidnaper. Written by
Jerry Milani <email@example.com>
Seeking out "A Stranger is Watching" was somewhat of a new experience for me I'm a big movie fanatic and I hardly read any books, but in this case I was familiar with the work of novelist Mary Higgins Clark before I ever saw a movie that was based on her writings. Clark certainly isn't the greatest suspense fiction writer in the world, as her books are often clichéd and predictable, but at least everything that I read from her was easy to digest, unpretentious and occasionally very tense (like for example the novels "I heard that song before" and "Two girls in Blue"). I haven't read the novel on which "A Stranger is Watching" is based, but it sure had an interesting synopsis that fits right into her area of expertise. The film is directed by Sean S. Cunningham, whose name is irreversibly linked to the slasher pioneer "Friday the 13th". Although often also quite sick and very exploitative, "A Stranger is Watching" is totally different and incomparable to "Friday the 13th", since the story centers on just a handful of people in a devastating situation, whereas "Friday the 13th" is simply about horny teenagers getting slaughtered. 9-year-old Julie Peterson traumatically witnesses how her mother fiercely gets murdered in her own house. Two years later, when an innocent person is about to be sentenced for the crime, the real killer returns to kidnap both little Julie as well as her father's new girlfriend Sharon. The psychopath, Artie Taggart, imprisons the two ladies in a hideout place underneath New York's central station and demands a 180k$ ransom. Julie's father and the police attempt to collect the money, while Sharon as well as a couple of observing New York homeless people battles her repulsive kidnapper. "A Stranger is Watching" is mostly tedious and not at all suspenseful, mainly because the identity and lame motives of the kidnapper are immediately revealed. Some sequences are quite grotesque, like for example when Taggart calmly walks across the crowded train station carrying a large bag on his shoulder with his sedated victims in it, but most of the time the film is overly talkative and dull. The surprise twists in the plot come across as forced and implausible and as a viewer you feel very little affection or compassion for the two damsels in distress. The killing sequences are vile and nasty, though, and the underrated Rip Torn depicts an extremely sadist & menacing villain, so "A Stranger is Watching" definitely holds some interest for 80's horror fanatics.
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