Rating: R
Stars: Radha Mitchell, Ella Newton, Vince Colosimo, Karis Oka, James Mackay, Andrew S. Gilbert, Sharon Johal, Lachie Millar, Jackson Gallagher
Writers: Terrence Hammond and Nicolette Minster, story by Terrence Hammond
Director: Mark Hartley
Distributor: XYZ Films
Release Date: November 4, 2022

Although there’s a maniac preying on young people in GIRL AT THE WINDOW, it’s not a slasher in the conventional sense. It’s more along the lines of a quasi-trapped young woman who knows there’s a serial killer next door, but can’t get anyone to believe her.

The film begins strikingly, with adolescent Lian (Karis Oka). Lian is so self-absorbed when she goes into a selfie booth for photos that she doesn’t notice the one-eyed naked corpse behind her.

Amy (Ella Newton) has just moved with her mom Barbara (Radha Mitchell) to a semi-isolated house outside a leafy Australian suburb. There is a home next door, occupied by Chris (Vince Colosimo). Amy is immediately put off by the sparks that fly when Barbara and Chris meet.

Six months later, we see that Amy and Lian are friends and schoolmates. Lian has achieved a bit of notoriety for the photo booth incident, which involved the last known victim of the Clockwork Killer. The murderer seems to have gone dormant since then.

Avid birdwatcher Amy starts spying on Chris, and notices his van coming and going with the headlights turned off at odd hours of the night. A few more hints later, and Amy is convinced that Chris is the Clockwork Killer.

But Amy has been suffering from nightmares, hallucinations, and guilt since the death of her father. Police think she’s disturbed, and Barbara worries that Amy just doesn’t want to have her mother dating anybody.

GIRL AT THE WINDOW has a big plot twist partway through. Director Mark Hartley stages a couple of good jump scares, and creates an atmosphere that’s somewhere between Disney Channel adventure and horror.

Oddly, the screenplay by Terrence Hammond and Nicolette Minster, from Hammond’s story, starts to throw in more quips in the third act, when most films would be getting more serious. It’s not what we expect, which is good; it doesn’t entirely work, which is problematic, but the filmmakers get points for trying something different.

There’s also one bit of trickery on the killer’s part that doesn’t work in a naturalistic story. We understand that he’s good at sneaking around, but there’s simply no time for him to get from Point A to Point B at a crucial moment.

Newton is good as the frustrated, anguished protagonist, and Oka has breezy credibility as her lively best friend. Mitchell provides grounded emotion as Amy’s understandably concerned mother.

GIRL AT THE WINDOW seems to want to be funnier and scarier than it is, but it works well enough to be worth a look for those seeking something slightly out of the ordinary when it comes to psycho killers.

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