One of the most controversial slasher films of the early 1980s was also one of the least seen. Directed by the cinematographer of THE GODFATHER, WINDOWS was to the lesbian community what William Friedkin's CRUISING (also 1980) was to the gay community – and were equally hated by both.
Emily (Talia Shire – who is most famous for the ROCKY series) plays a shy, divorced young woman living alone with her cat in a New York apartment. One night, returning from work, she is attacked in her apartment by a man with a knife. He forces the blade into her mouth, and makes her moan into a portable tape recorder. The next morning she reports the attack to the police. Whilst they are interviewing her, Emily's neighbour, Andrea (Elizabeth Ashley), comes by to comfort her. Emily is so upset by the attack that she decides to move to a new apartment, but whilst moving out the mysterious man tries to attack her again – only, Andrea manages to stop him entering the apartment. However, Andrea is not all she seems. She has the tape recording of Emily's attack. It becomes apparent that she is in love with her – and had hired a violent rapist to make the recording; to turn her on and turn Emily against men, and into her arms. Unaware, Emily continues to see Andrea as a friend, and starts a relationship with the cop investigating her attack (Joseph Cortese). Andrea becomes increasingly unhinged, and takes to spying on Emily through a telescope ...
What makes WINDOWS even more bizarre is that it is filmed in such a restrained style. It was clear that the makers were not out to make a slasher film, rather a decidedly then modern twist on the psycho thriller. Apart from the initial attack, most of the violence takes place off screen. Most of the sleaze is also implied, but the general conceit is so explosive that you can't help but feel grubby after watching it. The flick-knife showdown at Angela's apartment goes that extra bad taste mile, when she purrs to Emily, “Go on, take off the sweater!”. An unobtrusive, but typically seductive, Ennio Morricone score underpins what little action there is.
WINDOWS was made and distributed by United Artists – who were also the studio behind CRUISING. The furore around Friedkin's film generated major box office, but WINDOWS – which was actually released first – all but disappeared within weeks of opening. Concerted protests by feminist groups saw the film hounded off screens. They were, understandably, upset that the film equated lesbianism with mental illness – here an unhealthy obsession with an evidently straight woman. It is tempting to ask why the fuss when most killers in slasher thrillers are straight. But to put it into some kind of context, back in 1980 there had been precious few examples of positive attitudes to lesbianism in the mainstream – and this was, of course, near the height of the women-as-victims-in-film controversy. Other slasher films of the period employed 'predatory' lesbians within their plot (NIGHT SCHOOL (1981) and FATAL GAMES (1984) are just two examples) – but WINDOWS made it the hook that the rest of the film hangs on. Such was the infamy that the film attracted that it has only got scant home video releases since. Heavily cut in England, the Australian tape is reportedly uncut.
At the very least, WINDOWS is strikingly shot – making wonderful use of epic New York City locations. It was nominated for five Razzies, which is no surprise. Even despite its questionable premise, bad taste is not a crime - but making a thriller that's an thrilling as MURDER SHE WROTE most certainly is.
BODYCOUNT 2 female:0 / male:21) Male dies (method unseen)