No Place to Hide (1981)

Contrary to everyone else in her life, I didn’t think that wealthy art student Amy Manning was crazy when she claimed that a man in black hid in her car or stalked her through the halls of her school while, saying “soon, Amy soon.” I also didn’t believe she was delusional when the flower shop delivered a black wreath with “RIP” attached to it to her.

What made it clear that she was unbalanced, though suspiciously no one ever commented on it, was that despite her belief she was being stalked by someone never seen by anyone else, she insisted on putting herself in situations where she was all alone at various locations. Under the circumstances, would a rational person stay late at her art class so that she was the last person in the whole school in the middle of the night? (Except for the black clad maniac chasing her through the deserted hallways of course.)

Would she sit at home alone in her large mansion peeking out the window so that she could she him sinisterly standing on her street peering back at her? (I always have my curtains closed and never mindlessly stare out the window and I’ve never been stalked by a person only I can see! It’s just so much good old fashioned horse sense!)

The worst though is how she lets her stepmother’s good friend, a psychologist who helped her stepmom with her drinking problem, sweet talk her into thinking she really is seeing things. The reason is that she blames herself for her father’s mysterious death when he was all alone up at his cabin. The only sensible treatment is for Amy to travel to the cabin in the woods to confront that guilt! If you can’t spot at least five red flags in the preceding, you aren’t trying!  It’s practically a probable cause statement for an arrest warrant!

Despite Amy’s sometime inexplicable behavior (going on a date with a mysterious stranger who turns up with her car keys while she is literally hiding from her stalker is by far the silliest moment, sacrificing believability for the sole purpose of introducing yet another suspicious character), you can’t help but feel sympathy for her once the full nature of the scheme is revealed.

The monstrous plot carried out by those committing the most heinous betrayal of her trust for the most mercenary of reasons is nastier and scarier then many more explicit horror movies. The connection finally made between Amy and her stepmother while spending time together up at the cabin juxtaposed with what transpires shortly thereafter will leave you queasy or at least impressed with how nasty these old TV movies could manage to be without any real violence or gore.

Other than the laughable dinner date immediately after Amy was almost run over by a car fleeing her stalker and the very last moments of the movie where there’s a little creepy twist ending that like most creepy twist endings comes out of nowhere and is completely illogical, the script by Hammer Films legend Jimmy Sangster does a good job of building suspense and keeping you guessing as to just what is happening.

Why does the flower shop employee swear Amy ordered the funeral wreath herself? Is the lawyer for her father’s estate conspiring to keep her rightful inheritance from her? Since the mysterious dinner date can’t be the stalker because of how obvious the movie is trying to make it look like he is the stalker, what is his purpose? And who is now tormenting the stepmother and causing her to start chugging brandy again?

Did my eyes glaze over a bit when a rather convoluted second scheme to counteract the first scheme was explained? A little bit, but since it involved bribing a mortician to exact poetic justice on the evildoers, I let it slide and just enjoyed the glowering stare of the surviving villain being led away by the police, cooly advising that everything that was done, was simply done for the money.

A rather mean and uncompromising tale, aided by an effective score and ably handled by all involved including a pair of familiar faces known for work as far away from this sort of thing as possible (Keir Dullea from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Mariette Hartley for being James Garner’s partner in Polaroid commercials!), No Place to Hide is a surprisingly bleak view of the wisdom of trusting anyone and manages to upend expectations of who the bad guys really are. (And how awful was it that the stalker wrote his catchphrase all over one of Amy’s sketch’s? Like we get you want to terrorize her, but defacing her artwork is just cold, you ski-masked philistine!)

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