Girl at the Windows has all the ingredients to be an enjoyable genre picture. Director Mark Hartley has directed working on some great documentaries about genre cinema and it stars Radha Mitchell of Silent Hill fame. The story is about a girl named Amy (Ella Newton) who is convinced her neighbor is a serial killer. She does not have any concrete proof, but every night she watches him from her bedroom window. When she hears scream come from his shed and her best friend disappears, she knows she has to do something. Especially since he has begun dating Amy’s mother.
It is a set up that can build suspense doing very little. The audience joins in on the surveillance and wonders along with Amy why the man leaves his home each night for a few hours. And why doesn’t he ever turn the lights of his dark van on? Newton does an excellent job as the ever vigilant Amy. She is not just a passive viewer who is letting the horrendous crimes go on. She tries to tell numerous people and when that does not work, becomes actively involved in stopping the murders.
What starts off as positive traits takes a turn with the plot. As events progress, it becomes less about her being a persistent crime stopper and more about her targeting an innocent person. This happens often in these types of movies. The protagonist is sure they are right about the killer, and they ensure the person is captured early on. Of course, this turns out the be a red herring, leading to the eventual revelation of the real culprit or that the protagonist was right all along.
Girl at the Window follows the standard formula up until a certain point. About midway through the film, a number of things happen. The tone changes from a mysterious thriller about who the killer is, to more of a cat and mouse. There is also an avoidable situation that is completely Amy’s fault. Again, this is common in these films, but here it is a very heavy handed moment that will change audience perceptions. It seems like the moment is meant to shock and sadden the audience, but it does not work since it happens fairly quickly after another twist. On top of that, Amy’s insistence will have started wearing thin for many at this point.
It is not a coincidence the movie loses much of its suspense at this time. The subplot about trauma loses all meaning since it no longer fits the character motivation. The already quick pace speeds up even more, leaving little time for anything to sink in (or even make sense, in some cases). Girl at the Window works best when it fully embraces the gorier aspects of genre films. There are some graphic scenes that oscillate between disturbing and gross. Regrettably, any good is ruined by an ending that laughs everything away.
Girl at the Window comes to digital and Video on demand November 4
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