Girl at the Window – Film Review

Girl at the Window is a psychological horror which follows Sam (Ella Newton), who after the death of her father, has moved with her mother Barbara (Radha Mitchell) out of the city and to a small country town. Unfortunately, at the same time a psychopath dubbed ‘The Clockwork Killer’ has been stalking the area preying on teens.

Sam‘s affinity for birdwatching takes a turn when she becomes suspicious of the comings and goings of her new neighbour Chris (Vince Colosimo), and becomes certain that he is hiding something, or somebody, on his property. Convinced that he is in fact the killer she attempts everything she can to prove it before anyone else can be butchered.

Few directors would understand the appeal of ‘ozploitation’ better than director Mark Hartley. Not only has he worked on multiple retrospective documentaries as special features for classic Australian films, but many of these movies would not have seen the re-releases that they did, had it not been for Hartley‘s feature documentary ‘Not Quite Hollywood‘, which is largely to thank for the renewed appreciation for an almost forgotten era of Australian film. So, he seems the perfect fit to spearhead a movie such as this.

It makes Girl at the Window somewhat of a mysterious film as it is both technically well made at times, while at others it comes off as much more amateurish. I found myself in two minds as to whether this was intentional or not. The tone of the film is also an issue, which ranges from extremely dark to bubbly and comedic at the drop of a hat. For instance, the score composed by Jamie Blanks seems completely out of place at times but being that Blanks himself directed the late 90s early 2000s horror cult classics ‘Urban Legend‘ and ‘Valentine‘, I just had to assume he knew what he was doing.

Perhaps being that the film’s writers Terrance Hammond and Nicolette Minster are more experienced with comedic writing, led to some of the story issues. The plot feels like its building up to something more spectacular with a protagonist with psychological issues from past trauma mixed with an Aussie ‘Rear Window’ flair. Things which felt were hints of twists and turns to come that often went nowhere, or worse, ended with plot holes. St 84 minutes, this movie isn’t interested in being any deeper than it needs to be and unfortunately, it’s quite predictable as a result.

Radha Mitchell is undoubtedly a great actress and brings her ‘A’ game in the role of the mother trying to rebuild her life with a troubled daughter, but it does feel that she is being held back by the amateurish nature of the film. Colosimo is well placed as the creepy, though at the same time, charismatic neighbour. Ella Newton is great as Sam, but with the film not delving very far into her emotional issues in a believable way, she often just comes off as very blasé about the whole ‘my next-door neighbour is a psycho killer’ thing.

Where Girl at the Window really shines for me is in its horror elements. Sadly, they are too few and far between. But when we actually follow the Clockwork Killer‘s path of devastation, things feel like they’re finally clicking together a lot more effectively, with even the minimal gore effects being the real stand out. Added to this, the comedic edge which kept slipping to the surface, felt a lot more appropriate the more schlocky the film became.

Girl at the Window is better approached knowing that if you’re seeking a serious film, look elsewhere. Although Girl at the Window has lofty ideas, it doesn’t succeed in accomplishing them, excelling when it leans more into traditional horror territory. Now this isn’t exactly a slasher film, and I didn’t need a bloodbath, but I can’t deny that Girl at the Window would have been more enjoyable had it focused more on the thriller side and less on the psychological aspects that it didn’t pull off.

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