No, it’s not the classic 1960 French horror movie. And it’s not even the Billy Idol song. This latest indie horror release drops the ‘s’ for its techno horror adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. In fact, Eye Without a Face looks to meld bits of Hitchcock with more recent techno-thrillers, most notably Open Windows, and just about any horror movie with an agoraphobic character (Copycat, The Woman in the Window). But Eye Without a Face isn’t the first movie to exploit Hitchcock’s premise. Does it have anything new to add? To date, critics haven’t been very impressed.
Henry, a young man living in Los Angeles, suffers from overwhelming agoraphobic and anxiety. Aside from his aspiring YouTuber roommate, Eric, Henry’s only contact with the outside world is through the hacked webcams of women he watches. Each day Henry loses himself in the lives of these women seeing himself as something of a guardian to them. But when he suspects that one woman may be a serial killer, Henry’s life – and his sanity – fall out of control.
Eye Without a Face Doesn’t Lack For Ideas
Well, at least Eye Without a Face doesn’t lack for ideas. Of course, none of those ideas are wholly original. But writer and director Ramin Niami doesn’t lack for ambition. On its surface, Eye Without a Face is Rear Window updated with webcams and agoraphobia substituting for a broken leg. However, Henry’s predilection for watching women through their webcams feels creepier than Jimmy Stewart watching neighbours through a camera lens. So Niami instantly mashes up other movies influenced by Rear Window (Disturbia, Fright Night) and techno-thrillers like Open Windows and The Den. Too bad the director doesn’t seem interested in exploring the moral dilemma of Henry’s behaviour. And as the movie unfolds, Niami throws in more cinematic influences. Soon Eye Without a Face teases the possibility that a very mentally unstable Henry may be imagining everything. A serial killer narrative alongside some light slasher bits also eventually crop up.
Rather the movie requires characters to behave in completely implausible was to shoehorn this twist in at the end.
While the movie’s lack of focus overburdens itself, the bigger problem is the contrived twist. On one hand, Eye Without a Face peppers clues throughout its runtime. That’s not the problem. Rather the movie requires characters to behave in completely implausible ways to shoehorn this twist in at the end. In other words, Niami’s big final act twists requires a lot of mental gymnastics – from its characters and the audience. It also draws comparisons to a whole other set of thrillers, particularly Robert DeNiro’s mid-2000’s Hide and Seek.
Eye Without a Face Lacks Scares and Suspense
For a movie that feels overstuffed with ideas and obvious comparisons to other movies, not much happens in Eye Without a Face. After a promising opening scene that has a bit of suspense, Eye Without a Face immediately slows down to a grind. Specifically, Niami struggles with pacing and, as a result, the movie lacks much in the way of tension. The director also has trouble with the movie’s more horror-oriented scenes. For example, the handful of stalk-and-slash scenes feel more clumsy than scary. And just as it looks like the movie may pick up, Eye Without a Face succumbs to its unnecessary twist and some questionable character choices.
Both characters make mind-numbingly dumb decisions that further derail the movie.
Though none of the actors are particularly bad, no one stands out as good either. What Eye Without a Face gives audiences are some middle-of-road performances from actors burdened with some pretty stupid characters. As Henry, Dakota Shapiro is fine even if he’s not always compelling. While Vlada Verevko is flat as the potential serial killer, Luke Cook (Eric) at least channels some of the annoyingness you’d expect of a YouTuber. Both characters make mind-numbingly dumb decisions that further derail the movie. Some of the smaller supporting performances definitely fall on the wooden side.
Eye Without a Face Pulls Together a Lot of Ideas With Uninspiring Results
Though it’s watchable from start to finish, Eye Without a Face is pretty uninspiring stuff. Maybe Niami crams too many different ideas into a single movie. With elements taken from Rear Window, Open Windows (and similar techno-thrillers), and even DeNiro’s Hide and Seek, Eye Without a Face doesn’t leave itself any opportunity to explore the implications of its character’s voyeurism. What’s left are middle-of-the-road performances, a lack of suspense, and a forced twist. You may get through the movie, but you’re unlikely to care much about what you just watched.