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Girl at the Window

by Hope Madden

Rear Window was first, but an awful lot started with Hitchcock. In 1985, Tom Holland’s Fright Night reconsidered the concept – a voyeur certain he spies villainy through a neighbor’s window – with less visual panache, more nostalgic supernatural horror. Then D.J. Caruso essentially remade Fright Night in 2007 with Disturbia, Craig Gillespie did remake it in 2011, and last year, Joe Wright did Hitch’s original pulpy homage with The Woman in the Window.

Can director Mark Hartley do anything new or interesting with his spin, Girl at the Window? Even the title feels borrowed.

Hartley’s take is more specifically horror than the films it apes – not supernatural, just horror. It’s a bit low rent and borrows quite liberally from better films. Still, it does take some fine turns.

Ella Newton stars as Amy, a troubled teen who’s moved with her mom (Radha Mitchell) to a small town after a tragedy. The goal is to start fresh, but immediately Amy becomes suspicious of her next-door neighbor’s late-night trips. When a dormant serial killer seems to return, Amy decides it’s definitely the guy next door. But her own trauma may be clouding her judgment.

Mitchell’s solid as always, and the supporting cast delivers believable, often quite endearing turns. Newton makes for a fun central character, although there are times when Amy’s choices are idiotic and beyond forgiveness. Worse still, her tragic backstory, heavy-handed as it is, goes nowhere.

Hartley is best known for fascinating documentaries on genre filmmaking. His narrative work is less impressive, unfortunately. His 2013 reboot of Richard Franklin’s 1978 horror flick Patrick (an inexplicable favorite of mine, if I’m honest) felt safe, tame, updated without soul.

To a degree, those same flaws plague Girl at the Window. There’s nothing wrong with it and there are moments of fun to be had, but there are also five better riffs on the same tune you should probably watch instead.