Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rear Window, Revised

Have you seen Rear Window?
It's one of my absolute favorites, and is my #1 Alfred Hitchcock movie (for reference, #2 is The Birds and #3 is Psycho). 

It is a delightful summer thriller revolving around a perspiring Jimmy Stewart (mmm) trapped in his apartment during a sweltering New York summer because he has a broken leg and is in a cast up to his thigh (coincidentally this happened to my best friend and the experience is miserable).

His character is a photographer and therefore a natural observer (and a snoop....like me. Can I use my photography as an excuse too?).
So there he is, on an upper floor, facing out into a courtyard where he watches his neighbors most of the day, when he isn't being visited by his ravishing love interest, Grace Kelly.
The set is so much fun, and he has a wonderful view, which enables him to witness what he believes is a murder in the building across the way (and he is right, though no one believes him at first).

It is just so entertaining, in a voyeuristic way!

I loved this movie as a teenager, when I first saw it. It's perfectly suitable because there isn't any real violence-sex-language, hooray! I do wish they would realize movies don't need those things to be great, they just need an engrossing, solid plot, jaunty dialogue, and decent acting.
And it isn't a full on horror film--it is dramatic and gets creepier and creepier as it gets on. This is why they called Hitchcock the Master of Suspense! He doesn't need things popping out at the audience to make them scream (which so many modern films depend on).

What makes a film truly scary is its realism, and making the viewer relate and fear that this could happen to them.

And I do enjoy people-watching, which is perhaps why this movie appeals to me so much.
And boy, can I relate!

In our apartment complex, we face east and are on the top floor (third story) of our building.
Across the parking lot, about 25 feet away, is another building.
Sitting out on our enormous patio one night, I noticed that in that building across the way, there is an apartment on the second floor that is nearly directly across from us.
And that building is on a bit of a hill, so them being on the second floor isn't that much lower than us being on the third floor.
I noticed this particular apartment because they always have their living room brightly illuminated at night, and hanging across their large glass patio doors is a sheer red curtain, which makes everything look bloody and eerie, and you can see perfect silhouettes behind it.

When I saw that glowing red square across from me I felt a thrill and thought "ooh, it's just like Rear Window! If only they would do something creepy.
Well, I was not to be disappointed in the creepy department.

A few days after that, we had some friends over for Friday night cocktails and I was standing, staring out the door into the night and not many apartments had their lights on, as most residents were out partying, but there was that brilliant red glow again. The fact that it is RED makes it extra awful.
And then I saw movement. And when I realized what it was I thought my heart was going to stop!

It was the silhouette of an old woman, in a rocking chair, sitting in front of the patio.
And she was ROCKING THAT CHAIR LIKE NOBODY'S BUSINESS!! And old women and rocking chairs are the height of horror.
I screamed and ran to tell everyone and, as per, they thought I was exaggerating because my imagination is like Peter Pan on meth.

But I was rabidly insistent and they came over to the window to see for themselves and were shocked when they realized I hadn't exaggerated one bit--I didn't need to.
We were speechless, just watching this old woman (very much like Psycho) rocking and rocking.
And then the curtain twitched--someone had peeked through the red curtains and hanging slats and was watching us!
We all screamed and tried to duck--it was that horror movie moment when the person you are watching sees you and you instinctively think they're going to kill you to keep you quiet.

I dashed for the switch and turned off the lights, so they couldn't see us as well.

We chuckled about it for a few days and then let it go.
And then, another balmy evening on the patio with Eli and we saw it again.
And again we saw the shape of someone, next to the rocking granny, peek through the blinds and stare back at us. "What the hell?!" we said to one another.

Still weeks later, and we were having a nice quiet evening with a few pals and I told them the story of the creepy neighbors. "Seriously?! I want to see!" was the response.
So we headed out to the patio and they were able to experience the creepiness themselves, red window and all.
I had told my best friend the story, and she wanted to see it, so I decided it would be a good idea to take a photo of it.
But oops, my flash was on. So a giant light in the night obviously alerted the creepy neighbors to our spying so they started peeking out at us, and we ducked down onto the patio and tried peeking over the top of the rail, or under the space at the bottom of the patio wall. Observe:

Then I took another flash photo, they pulled the blinds across the window, and proceeded to peek at us through there. This battle went on for 15 minutes until we went back inside.

A few days later, at 9pm, a few of us were listening to acoustic music and singing, not making much noise at all (and it was nice noise), when a rent-a-cop arrived at our door, telling us our neighbors across the way had complained. He wouldn't say who, or what kind of "noise" they were complaining about and left.
Considering we had had several rambunctious parties at our apartment before that, which went much later into the night and involved rock music, we knew....
"the creeps across the street called on us! It must be revenge for us taking photos the other night!"

so on it went.

When my best friend Vicky arrived in May to stay with us for a few weeks, we had a welcome shindig one Saturday evening.  There were a bunch of us standing on the patio in the fading evening light and I was talking about the apartment complex and Vicky said "tell them about your creepy neighbor" (having followed my reports about their creepiness very closely) and so I began.
I could tell about halfway into my story that people thought I was bullshitting.
But they let me keep telling it, all the while staring at the apartment in question.

I told them about the creeps peeking out at us and watching us all the time when,
as if on cue, the neighbor's blinds parted and we saw a piece of a face, and an eyeball, staring at us.
The girls shrieked a bit, and realized my story was credible!
The guy watching us realized we had seen him, and he tried to close the swaying blinds.
And then peek at us again. It was obvious. And creepy.

A few weeks later Eli and I were on our way to Farmer's Market and as we came into the parking lot, I saw movement and looked up at their apartment, and sure enough there was that eyeball looking through a crack in the blinds, watching us!
I pointed it out to Eli and we stared back at the guy, and he didn't move. He just kept watching us.

Since then, at random times, I see them watching us--in the daytime when I come home with groceries, and sometimes at night.
The red curtain is still there and yes, we still see the old woman rocking sometimes.
That's what really gets me, it makes my stomach jump every time. It is just too much! Especially after the rocking chair scene from Woman in Black.

If you haven't seen it, go to the 30 second mark on this clip. And you will understand the horror!

And so friends, that is my own Rear Window tale.
I try not to stare across the way too much, especially in the evening.
Because if I see that old woman get out of her chair, or something equally creepy,
my heart may drop into my stomach. Because that is what happens when you die of fright.

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