Body Double (Brian De Palma, 1984)
A young man tries to make it as an actor in Hollywood but he struggles with his fear of confined spaces and his voyeuristic behaviors. This later vice will mix him with a mysterious murder of hitchcockian scape.
Jake Scully (Craig Wasson) is our protagonist here, having lost a recent acting job as a vampire in a low budget film he gets home and finds his girlfriend with another man in bed. Having no place left to stay he meets Sam (Gregg Henry) in an acting class who offers him to take his apartment while he is away. The best part is the front neighbor dancing naked in front of the opened shades offering to Jake a nice way to past the time. But just like De Palma’s master Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window his voyeurism has a price and he witnesses the murder of the woman in front of his eyes.
Filled with endless references to the aforementioned master of suspense, Body Double is a blend of Rear Window and Vertigo two of Hitch’s greatest films. While in Dressed to Kill, Carrie, and Blow Out De Palma achieves to use his mentor’s influence in an interesting cinematic way. He miserably fails to be entertaining and coherent with Body Double. At first, the film has some appeal and it is quite clear that we are in another of De Palma’s teenage wet dream. Even his overbearing aesthetics of cinematic excesses isn’t there that much to bring some signature that we would have appreciate to fill for the thin plot and the many wholes of its narration.
In the same time, Body Double has a huge cult following much like many other Brian De Palma films of this era and despite its many flaws it is quite enjoyable as a motion picture in all its uneveness. Its New Wave soundtrack retracing the contemporary artists that marked its time are also worth noticing. Just like the presence of real porn stars of the time Annette Haven who was considered for the part of Holly Body that went to Melanie Griffith, and Cara Lott on the set of the porno that Jake shots to meet Holly. There’s also a short part by Slavitza Jovan aka Gozer the Gozerian in Ghostbusters.
Speaking modern classics, Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho cites Body Double as the main character’s favorite film renting it repeatedly and masturbating to the most violent parts trying to recreate them in his deliriums.
In conclusion, the best label for Body Double, if we have to label everything nowadays, is a cult classic film from Brian De Palma which is far from the director’s best efforts but that shows its dedication to the old Hitchcock and his passion for adult films and stylistic violence.