Tuesday, October 4, 2011

31 Days Of 80's Movie Slashers: 10/4 - Eyes Of A Stranger (1981)

Day Four:

Eyes Of A Stranger
from Warner Brothers 
Original Theatrical Release Date: March 27th 1981
DVD: Yes

Plot: Miami. Haunting and harassing phone calls followed by rape and murder. Enter intrepid news reporter Jane Harris (Lauren Tewes of The Love Boat). She's willing to risk her job and relationship with her boyfriend to stop the killer. The killer who also has designs on her blind, deaf and mute sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh in her feature debut). Can she stop him in time?

Sometimes a slasher film needs to have a good Scooby-Doo angle, and Eyes Of A Stranger definitely has one. You can't get anyone more curious than a news reporter who has as much brains as she does hair on her head. Speaking of which, star Lauren Tewes with her 'do and look in this film eagerly channels Jane Fonda. And considering the feminist bent the film has, her resemblance to Ms. Buns Of Steel is all the more appropriate.

My favorite scene in Eyes is the one where Jane turns the table on the perverted slasher. At this point of the film, she has found out who he is and decides that she has no choice but to give him a taste of his own medicine. Knowing he's a neighbor of hers, she picks up the phone and calls him. She warns him that she knows who he is, and he hangs up. She calls him back. She verbally taunts him. He becomes alarmed and angry. She calls him back once again. And again. And again. I love the way she lights her cigarette during this scene. It's as if she's become complicit in her own act of violence and she's just exercised her own demon. This is a standout scene.

  Jane's phone calls.

 Jane post-call.

Because Eyes sets it's sights on giving the Slasher film a bit of a feminist spin, this gives it's heroine the opportunity to go to a dark place in return. Slasher films of the time were frequently labeled misogynistic (and famously by critics Siskel & Ebert on their show) but this picture within it's story framework goes a slightly different route. The Final Girl almost always has to face her fears and face off with the villain, but our heroine here has the motivation of not only her own personal survival, but also to protect her sister and to somehow get some justice for his many victims.

Perhaps not a classic in the sub-genre, Eyes still generates a good amount of suspense. The Picture is deliberate in it's build of tension, and several moments like in the underground parking garage scenes and the Rear Window-like setup perfectly add to the atmosphere. The Film is more than likely best remembered for the special make-up effects by Tom Savini. After Friday The 13th, Savini was in high demand. He immediately went to work on William Lustig's Maniac, and then returned back to Georgetown Productions (Friday's Production company) to work on Eyes. His work here was extremely well done as usual, though the film suffered a bit by the hands of the MPAA as Savini's gore was cut down to avoid an X Rating.

Thankfully the current DVD release retains all of Savini's effects that was cut from the previous Warner Brothers VHS release. They incorrectly labeled the disc as Rated R, but is in fact the Unrated version. Go get your Stranger on!

The Severed head - A Tom Savini speciality.

My only real problem with Eyes Of A Stranger: Jane & her boyfriend chatting in a movie theater while watching either Being There or Dawn Of The Dead. Shut up about the killer already and enjoy the movie!

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