Girl at the Window (2022) poster

Girl at the Window (2022)


Australia. 2022.


Director – Mark Hartley, Screenplay – Terence Hammond & Nicolette Minster, Story – Terence Hammond, Producer – Antony I. Ginnane, Photography – Garry Richards, Music – Jamie Blanks, Visual Effects Supervisor – Steve Cooper, Makeup Effects/Prosthetics Designer – Larry Van Duynhoven, Production Design – Robbie Perkins. Production Company – FG Film Productions/Film Victoria/Headgear Films/Metrol Technology.


Ella Newton (Amy Poynton), Radha Mitchell (Barbara Poynton), Karis Oka (Lian Chen), Vince Colismo (Chris Mancini), James McKay (Mr Coleman), Andrew S. Gilbert (Detective John Nordoff), Sharon Johal (Detective Dhara Mallick), Lauren Goetz (Susan Miller), Lachie Millar (Dean), Jackson Gallagher (Detective Reuben Knox), Adam Rozenbachs (Amy’s Father)


Teenager Amy Poynton lives is a small Victoria town. The area is plagued by a serial killer who has been nicknamed The Clockwork Killer. Amy is certain that neighbour Chris Mancini is the killer and keeps a record of his nightly comings and goings, noting how they coincide with The Clockwork Killer’s movements. Amy’s mother Barbara has also started going out with Chris. As the latest girl is abducted, Amy tries to find evidence to take to the police but ends up upsetting both Chris and her mother, where her claims about Chris are dismissed as being all in her imagination.

Mark Hartley is better known as a documentary-maker than a dramatic filmmaker. Hartley began making music videos in the 1990s and by the 2000s was specialising in making extras shorts to accompany dvd releases of classic Australian films. He then made the full-length documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008), an hilarious looks at the Australian exploitation film industry of the 1970s and 80s. He went on to make a series of very entertaining theatrically released documentaries on other exploitation genres with Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010) about the Filipino film industry of the 1970s and Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014) about Golan-Globus and Cannon Films.

Hartley broached his first fiction film with Patrick (2013), a remake of an earlier Ozploitation classic Patrick (1978) about a coma patient who exhibits psychic powers. There Hartley unfortunately turned a modest original, which has become a cult classic, into something ridiculously overwrought that hammered every directorial point home with a sledgehammer. Girl at the Window was Hartley’s second dramatic outing as a director.

Though it is an original screenplay, Girl at the Window is fairly much an uncredited remake of Disturbia (2007) in which teenager Shia LaBeouf is confined on home detention and begins to suspect that his next door neighbour is a serial killer. Of course Disturbia owed its basics to other works like the slasher film Eyes of a Stranger (1981) going all the way back to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) in which James Stewart is wheelchair-ridden following an accident and takes to spying on his neighbours with a telephoto lens only to inadvertently witness Raymond Burr murdering his wife.

Ella Newton as teenager Amy Poynton in Girl at the Window (2022)
Ella Newton as teenager Amy Poynton

Girl at the Window gives us some minor changes to the Rear Window/Disturbia premise. Disturbia’s central character gets a gender-flip (where 30 year-old Ella Newton gets to play a teenager!). Both Disturbia and Rear Window had to invent reasons to have their central characters confined at home – in a wheelchair, on a home detention bracelet – whereas here Ella Newton is free to walk around, at most is grounded and at one point locked in her room by her mother. The other is that the script is more ambiguous in that it creates a red herring where who she thinks is the killer is not after all – although never really explains why the killer is entering the neighbour’s house and using his van – and even suggests that many of the things Ella sees are all in her imagination. This then edges into another trope – The Boy (or Girl) Who Cried Wolf plot.

Mark Hartley’s direction has improved none since Patrick. I think he makes highly entertaining documentaries but as a dramatic director he is the equivalent of someone who writes in all caps. Every dramatic point is hammered home with thunderous urgency on the soundtrack. Hartley throws in red herrings, dramatically hyped suspense sequences and dream jumps all to zero effect whatsoever. His concept of foreshadowing is clunky and obvious – when we see a shard of wood protruding out of the wall for no apparent purposes, you can take bets on the fact that it is there for someone to be impaled on moments later. The actor playing the real killer lets go with a giggly over-the-top silliness that causes any serious threat to evaporate.

Trailer here

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