Theoretically, even a society without an officially organized police force will have police powers. The question is always what form they will take. For this list, 10 different horror and thriller films were selected to highlight different interpretations of police work. Some of these movies were chosen precisely because of the lack of police involvement and what that says about the individual film, whereas others have prominent police characters. What better genre than horror for examining how society polices violence (or gloriously fails to)?
1. Rear Window (1954)
Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is about a man who, due to a broken leg, takes up the habit of watching people in the neighborhood. While Jeff (James Stewart) may be engaging in iffy behavior, it leads to some interesting discoveries. In fact, some viewers might be forced to be honest with themselves about voyeurism, too. Sure, most of us aren’t dedicated to “peeping tom” behavior, but be honest: When you’re walking down the street, don’t you kind of look into people’s windows a bit, or at least by accident? We might relate to Jeff, ever so slightly.
In other words, this movie might subconsciously make people feel uncomfortable due to buried feelings of guilt, along with whatever suspense is on the screen. Speaking of which: This movie was chosen because police and law and order barely figure into the viewer’s perspective. As Jeff sees something that may be a murder, he becomes interested in proving something’s wrong, but he ultimately doesn’t make police involvement the center of the film. Why would he when his investigation starts out as private snooping, out of some curiosity and hints of perversion?
Years later, this theme is repeated by the character of Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, who similarly gets ensnared in a mystery after snooping around (was this intentional on Lynch’s part?). Also, aren’t other people’s lives more interesting than ours, at least for a little while? One day, Rear Window‘s Jeff spots the auburn-haired Miss Lonelyhearts (Judith Evelyn). Then there’s the rather attractive, scantily clad dancing woman he calls “Miss Torso” (Georgine Darcy). After watching her with his binoculars, one suspects he might end up dreaming about her at night.
However, things really take off when he hears a woman’s scream from the apartment of his neighbor, Mr. Thorwald (Raymond Burr). Although normally calm, Jeff struggles to regain some level of control over his turbulent emotions and convince others that something fishy is going on. Although it excites him, Jeff’s emotional and physical well-being are on the line, especially with him still undergoing physical recovery. Then, of course, we have to wonder if his mind’s playing tricks on him, or if his memory of what’s going on is correct. Rear Window also stars Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, and Thelma Ritter.