Producer: Antony I. Ginnane Director: Mark Hartley Screenplay: Terence Hammond and Nicolette Minster Cast: Radha Mitchell, Ella Newton, Karis Oka, James Mackay, Vince Colosimo, Andrew S. Gilbert, Jackson Gallagher, Sharon Johal, Lackie Millar, Simone Buchanan, Lauren Goetz and Trae Robin Distributor: XYZ Films
Some will compare Mark Hartley’s Australian chiller to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” but the better comparison would be to D.J. Caruso’s “Disturbia”—itself a rip-off of Hitch’s masterpiece, though not a terrible one—or the various LifeTime TV flicks based on similar premises. “Girl at the Window” adds some new twists to the old formula, but they all prove for the worse.
The picture opens with its arguably best scare—the appearance of a girl’s corpse, with an eye removed, propped up behind an oblivious, self-absorbed teen taking her picture in a coin-operated photo booth. The body represents the latest victim of the so-called Clockwork Killer, who targets young couples, immediately murdering the boys but carting off the girls foe torture before killing them as well.
Attention quickly shifts to Amy Poynton (Ella Newton), a high school student who’s moved into a house on the outskirts of town with her mother Barbara (Radha Mitchell) following the death of her father in a cave accident that’s left her traumatized and claustrophobic. Before long Barbara has begun spending time with their next-door neighbor Chris Mancini (Vince Colosimo)—which bothers Amy, who is still grieving for her dad and thinks her mother should be, too.
Amy begins to suspect, moreover, that Chris might be the serial killer. From her second-story window she watches him climb into his truck and drive off in the middle of the night without its lights on, returning hours later. He also has a rickety barn that he keeps locked—perhaps a hiding-place for kidnap victims. She begins to investigate on her own, enlisting the help of her flighty friend Lian (Karis Oka) and her bovine boyfriend. Meanwhile the girls’ English teacher Mr. Coleman (James Mackay) is annoyed by their erratic conduct in class, taking special umbrage at Amy’s essays.
There are further deaths and disappearances that lead Amy to undertake ever more dangerous steps to unearth the truth. It doesn’t help that her mother thinks that she’s suffering from delusions resulting from her continuing trauma, and that the police she reports her suspicions to, even kindly Detective Nordoff (Andrew S. Gilbert), think that her imagination is running wild.
After a few surprise twists, the identity of the killer is finally revealed when Amy’s insistence on continuing her searches puts her in imminent peril. Anyone hoping that the script by Terence Hammond and Nicolette Minster will provide some rationale for the killing spree will be disappointed, as the perpetrator merely points out that there are bad people in the world, and they do bad things—like making a movie such as this.
To be fair, with a few exceptions (Oka, Mackay), the cast does a decent job, with Newton bringing a great deal of energy to Amy and Mitchell doing what she can with an underwritten role. Technically things are more than adequate, given what must have been a poverty-row budget: cinematographer Garry Richards, in particular, delivers a few imaginative touches. Roberta Horslie’s editing sputters at times, but at least keeps the running-time to a mere eighty-four minutes.
Director Mark Hartley has made some well-received documentaries, but his first fiction feature, a 2014 remake of the 1978 thriller “Patrick,” received mixed notices, and this second is unlikely to find much approval. Perhaps his talent lies in the non-fiction realm.