Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Well, we have Wes Craven to thank for this one. The undisputed horror auteur put out this cult classic in the year of my birth, and it has since spawned a couple of sequels and a gritt(ier?) re-boot. The plot follows a middle-class family during an ill-fated road trip that lands them in redneck cannibal country. The film is often described as "exploitation-horror," which means not so much your subtle psychological thriller and more your gory grossness. Sigh. Almost makes you nostalgic for the French horror movie with "eyes" in the title.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chat: Eyes Without a Face

Tracy: So did you want to chat the creatively titled Eyes Without a Face?

Natalie: Sure! My first comment: how does one have eyes without a face? I understand the skin was supposedly gone but . . . And, second comment: how does one lose all of the skin off of one's face in a car accident without damaging the eyes?
Or breaking her nose or cheekbones or something.

Tracy: Or any other part of her body, presumably! And was I the only one who thought she looked like Mia Farrow on Botox in that mask? I have to say, I was (unpleasantly) surprised by the gruesomeness of the surgery scene.

Natalie: Right?! And, nope, she looked just like Mia Farrow on Botox in the mask, especially with the short hair and the swingy nightgowns. At first I was ok with the surgery scene, thinking that the scalpel was just a pen but when they started cutting muscle . . . ugh.

Tracy: Yeah, it was cringe-worthy. What do we think of the assistant/former face-transplant recipient? What happened to her? And is she meant to be evidence of the thrall of the creeptastic surgeon? Also, poor dogs.

Natalie: I'm not sure what to think of her. She seemed a little automaton like but with glimpses of free will. I think my main complaint with this one is the lack of character development. I can guess the wacko motivation of the surgeon but we get next to nothing on the assistant, daughter, daughter's fiance, the cops, the girl the cops almost got killed . . .

Tracy: I agree. I could see a feminist version of this movie, where it's all about the surgeon dad pretending to be altruistic but really just furthering his own self-aggrandizment (best surgeon ever!), but it doesn't really let you get there, because for a movie that's allegedly so horrifying, it's remarkably low-key in performance and filming. I think it's actually pretty mean to the girl who almost gets killed. She seems like such a moron through the whole thing.

Natalie: It doesn't really let you get anywhere. It's very systematic in its not-quite horror. It's a step in the right direction from the other French horror we've seen but without the character development and without more investment in the characters and the plot, I wasn't really interested in what happened. I didn't care about the faceless girl so I really didn't care if she never got a face. And they didn't play up the sci-fi aspect enough for that to grab me (besides the fact that doctors totally do face transplants now).

Tracy: And the mask wasn't really that bad! Here's what the book says: They seem to read it as a mad scientist/monster movie, which is actually sort of interesting. But then ends up saying "This is what gives the film its meaning: we are the 'monster' for whom Doctor Genessier commits his horrible crimes." Not so sure how that works. Also says it's a mixture of high and low cultural tastes. Eh.

Natalie: The mask worked out just fine. I'm sure it would be a tad creepy but grow some bangs and toss on a hat and you're good to go. As a mad scientist/monster movie I would have been more interested in the whole thing. But I needed more. And, no, there is nothing to suggest that we are the monster. If they added how society would have or did shun her, we could be the monster. But it seems he just locked her away and started skinning girls. Eh. I don't hate it but I'm not in love. I'd happily keep it if we can ditch most of the other French horror/suspense.

Tracy: Yeah, I didn't hate it. There was a sort of Grand Guignol creepiness about it. Seemed more like a short story than a movie. I'd keep it too, if only because it seems like it's the only horror film this studio made.

Natalie: It WAS more like a short story! Good comparison. So, ok, a "sure why not" keeper.

Tracy: Yeah, a lukewarm keeper.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Eyes Without a Face (1960)

Nope, not the Billy Idol song. Yep, the French horror film. Sounds like a nice mad-scientist flick in the vein of Hawthorne's "The Birthmark," except creepier. A brilliant surgeon kidnaps young women with the purpose of grafting their faces onto his daughter's, who was disfigured in a car wreck. Doesn't that sounds promising? However, it is French, so we're all bracing ourselves for the promising premise to be drained of all emotional or visceral impact.