Eye Without a Face has nothing to do with that old Billy Idol song "Eyes without a Face."
Just a similar sounding title. Eyes. Plural.
What it is, is a low budget feature from people who gathered together to make a movie and, in the process, learn their craft.
Everyone has to start somewhere.
In the case of movies like this, they borrow heavily from other movies in the hopes that no one will notice or care.
The “eye” without a face (singular) that the title refers to is the unblinking eye of a laptop computer. In the hands of a creepy, agoraphobic hacker like our main character Henry (Dakota Shapiro) it is a voyeur’s dream.
Voyeurism has been a popular theme in the movies for quite some time.
The classic is Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). More recent examples would include screenwriter Joel Eszterhas’s Sliver (1993) for which he was paid an astronomical fee ($1 million) based on the success of his previous script for Basic Instinct (1992).
In this case, a pervert living in the squalor of a cramped apartment, get his thrills looking in on the lives of about a half dozen unsuspecting young women. Though he tells a friend that he never watches them when they are naked, he does watch them having sex with their lovers. He justifies his twisted obsession by claiming that he is their watchful protector.
Henry never appears to work. Or bathe. Or changes his clothes. His life revolves around sitting at his computer in his messy man cave of an apartment, watching a handful of young women, day and night.
Things get a little dicey one day when his aspiring, unemployed young actor tenant catches him in the act and is, himself drawn into Henry’s world.
It’s a teasing, tantalizing world filled with Peeping Tom thrills and some degree of mystery. One of the women appears to intoxicate and seduce one of her male friends, taking him by the hand to her bedroom upstairs. He apparently never returns.
But what does follow are a strange series of events that lead Henry to conclude that she may have murdered and dismembered her guest and served him to other friends at her dining room table as a stew.
The plot device of having a main character question whether or not they may have witnessed a murder has been around for a while. Antonioni’s classic movie Blow-Up (1966) is a great example.
Serving someone as an entrée can be traced to one of the classic Alfred Hitchcock TV shows in which a woman kills her husband with a frozen leg of lamb and later serves it to the detective who is trying to solve the case.
He says something like “the evidence could be right under our noses.” Classic Hitchcock.
A more recent example of cooking and serving someone is the famous scene in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) in which the character played by Meat Loaf is served as, well, I’m tempted to say something akin to meat loaf. Actually, it’s a disgusting large piece of fatty meat as I recall, meant for shock value. Despite being campy, it works.
Henry finds himself in a tough spot. While he may have witnessed a murder, he can’t just pick up the phone and call the police since they might ask about the details of how he happened to see the events taking place on someone’s home.
But he calls them anyway and no one seems to mind, other than the woman he ratted out, who may be a cold blooded murderer.
After the police leave, she walks right over to the computer and vows revenge. And things take an ugly turn for poor Henry.
Not that he doesn’t deserve it. And that’s part of the problem with Eye Without a Face.
The main character is essentially a pervert with an uncontrollable urge that is both unlawful and immoral. Story-wise, it’s hard to work around that and feel any compassion for Henry, or his fun-loving, risk-taking friend who dives headfirst, straight into this sticky web of darkness and evil.
Maybe Henry getting his comeuppance is what this movie is all about. But even that is compromised by his twisted past and his relationship with his father which turns out to be a mirror image reflection of Norman Bates and his mother in Psycho (1960).
Early childhood development is such a delicate thing. Bad parenting can lead to the creation of a world-class psychopath in the movies. We’ve seen it again and again.
Eye Without a Face is a wannabe movie from an Alfred Hitchcock devotee.
To his credit, Hitchcock remains the true Master of Suspense who has influenced several generations of filmmakers.
Directors like Brian De Palma made a career out of shamelessly copying Hitchcock. I’m sure he thought of it as a reverent homage. In truth, it feels more like a blatant rip-off, much like what’s going on in Eye without a Face.
Eye Without a Face is available on DVD and digital.