Review: Double Exposure (1983)

Double Exposure

Directed by William Byron Hillman
Starring Michael Callan, Joanna Pettet, James Stacy

There are four elements of Double Exposure: Romance, domestic drama, psychiatry, and murder. I find myself liking the first three so much that I could do without all the murdering. Of course, we can only go where the movie takes us, and this movie has a lot on its mind.

Adrian Wilde is a photographer. Lately, he’s been having nightmares. In these nightmares, he murders young women. When the murders in his dreams become front page news, the line between dreams and reality becomes blurred. His brother B.J. reassures him that he’s an innocent man. He meets a pretty lady named Mindy, who doesn’t realize the extent of Adrian’s condition. Every night ends in a cold sweat. Every murder links back to him. Is Adrian really a killer?

I’m going to stop you right there. I know what you’re thinking. I know you’ve seen this movie before. It’s been done many, many time before. But forget about all that, because Double Exposure has far too much on its mind to care about being original.

Almost every character with more than 10 lines has a backstory. Adrian was married a long time ago, lost his house, lives in a trailer on the beach, and makes good money snapping photos for advertisements. B.J. is married with two children who Adrian adores but rarely sees. Recently, B.J. was in a car accident while filming a stunt for a movie and lost his left arm and leg. As a result, his home life has been shattered. And Mindy? She’s recently divorced, and one day decided to work at a nursing home when she had coffee with an older man who lived there.

I can’t remember any Friday the 13th movies in which the hot girl tells her boyfriend her life history before taking her clothes off and getting stabbed. Come to think of it, I can’t think of a lot of movies that provide this much backstory for their characters at all. It would be ridiculous if it wasn’t so well-written and presented. I learn to care about Adrian and his friends. Mindy is beautiful, playful, and caring. B.J. is moody and rude, but often reassuring and occasionally charming. There is more to Adrian than what we’re shown. Every quiet moment is punctuated by his thoughtful eyes.

But we are forced to witness more murders. A couple of detectives are trying to track the killer, their dialogue straight out of a bad episode of Kojak. The murder scenes only interest us because Adrian might somehow be involved. He’s an incredibly sympathetic character, and we’re invested in his well-being.

The murders themselves are absolutely terrifying. The camera’s gaze lingers on the killer’s victims as he strangles them to death. The evocative music score rattles, bumps, and pounds its way into place. We cringe and jump out of our chairs. And yet …

I miss the domestic drama. I miss the romantic flings on the beach. I miss believing in Adrain’s innocence.

Double Exposure has a lot on its mind. We have all the pieces to the puzzle, but there are so many left over. There’s too much here. I would say that it’s 20 minutes too long, but I kind of love it all. Because how often do you see a slasher movie with characters you like in it?


Amazon – Double Exposure DVD (Remastered)
YouTube – Theatrical Red Band Trailer


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