Eyes of a Stranger (1981)
EYES OF A STRANGER
WRITER: Screenplay by Mark Jackson
DIRECTOR: Ken Wiederhorn
STARRING: Lauren Tewes as Jane
John DiSanti as Stanley Herbert
Peter DuPre as David
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Tracy
QUICK CUT: A news anchor struggles to raise her blind and mute daughter in a bad part of town.
Jane - A loving mother, and news anchor, and one of the strongest female characters in a horror movie I've seen in awhile. She's smart, she's a REAL journalist, and she will do anything for her daughter.
Tracy - Jane's daughter who suffered an unspecified tragedy (Although the dots are REALLY easy to connect), which caused her to lose her sight and ability to speak. She's adjusted amazingly well in a short period of time, and is just as smart and determined as her mom.
Herbert - A weird, creepy guy who has decided to stalk and kill women because they're mean to him. The hero of every anti-social justice warrior out there.
THE GUTS: Hoo. After a long couple of months of barely related superhero themed horror movies, and with the holidays around the corner, I think we here at Trisk need a bit of a pallet cleanser. So I am gonna sit back with this nice, simple stalker movie, Eyes of a Stranger. It's about a guy going around killing women, a reporter who is using her job to shine a light on this monster, and her blind/mute daughter. There's no big surprises here, nothing out of the norm, just a nice, straightforward thriller, and I think Trisk needs that before getting into our Thanksgiving turkeys. Believe me, I know what's coming, and having something *normal* and simple and just a nice bit of fluff? You'll be longing for these days soon.
The credits roll over some decent haunting mood music, while a photographer trudges through the muck, taking some shots. He eventually finds a dead body under the water, and that's a solid enough way to set the tone for the movie. The haunting, droning music continues for the movie, and is easily one of its strengths.
We cut to a news team covering the event, and filling in some further details on the case, like a suspected assault. And now we go to Scott at the entertainment desk...
Naturally, we gotta cut to a woman getting off work at a strip club and walking home alone, as one does in these movies, to fill it with victims.
It's a solid, tense scene, building that tension, because you know SOMEthing is coming, just not when. Nothing happens during the walk, but once she's home, and comfy, she gets a creepy call, taunting her, and she doesn't give the guy one inch.
However, he keeps calling back, being increasingly taunting and creepy. She keeps hanging up on him, and the more she yells at him, the worse he gets. Eventually it gets to the "Fuck you, bitch! How dare you hang up on me!!" stage. Yep, the whole men's rights movement was alive and strong in the 70s.
She calls the cops, but they brush her off, since the news reports are emboldening all the creeps to come out of the woodwork. Wow, another similar thing to current events.
Her boyfriend shows up at the worst possible time, wearing a scary mask, when she gets paranoid that someone's lurking through her house. He nearly gets a meat cleaver to the face.
Unfortunately for Jeff, there IS someone lurking in the shadows, and while Debbie is getting ready, he makes sure Jeff doesn't miss his appointment with that meat cleaver.
The killer violently assaults Debbie, and kills her. And let me just pause the mocking for a tiny moment here. This movie got a LOT of crap for its treatment of women, and I do understand it, but on the other hand...it's telling the story of a violent man killing women. You're gonna see some of that stuff. And there's the argument of how much you want to show, and how much to tell. In my opinion, I've seen worse, and I think this movie is JUST brutal enough, to establish how horrible this guy is.
Later, Jane is heading home from seeing her boyfriend, and as she gets to her apartment complex, she watches Peter Griffin drive in, with his shirt covered in blood.
She takes note of the strange behaviour, and since she's an actual journalist, she clearly intends to look into it further. The next day, we meet her blind and mute daughter, Jennifer Jason Leigh.
We kill some time with a flashback to Tracy being kidnapped, before she was blind and mute. We get more info on that sprinkled throughout the movie, but let me cut tom the chase. A later nightmare fills in the blanks of her kidnapper dumping her somewhere, and the trauma somehow gave her hysterical blindness, and took her voice away. So, in a lot of ways, you could say that now it's personal, for Jane.
As Jane does her homework and discovers the suspicious guy lives in the building opposite from her, in an easy to view spot, I get flashbacks of Someone's Watching Me!
But Peter heads out for the night, and we watch him repeat his phonecall technique with another woman. It's repetitious, but interesting to see how different women handle the threat differently. And how he has clearly stalked his victims before, because he always knows SOMEthing about them.
The latest victim calls a friend to stay with her and not be alone, but when she gets in the elevator, the emergency phone starts ringing. I feel like calling bullshit here.
Unfortunately, the woman never makes it to her friend's place, as Peter jumps up from her backseat and kills her too.
Peter goes to dump his latest victim, but of all things, his car gets stuck in the dirt. This reminds me of the time my friends and I were driving the backroads, and John's Bronco hit some nasty mud. We had to use a fallen tree for the tires to grab onto!
Across the way though, there's a guy making out with his girlfriend in their car, but the other car constantly trying to get out of the dirt is really grinding his gears. He goes to help give Peter a push, but just gets a knife in the throat.
Since he can't have witnesses, Peter heads over to the other car and also slashes the girlfriend's neck, to be thorough.
Jane's suspicions rise with each murder, and while her evidence is purely circumstantial, she keeps digging. One day, she sees Peter drive off, and breaks into his apartment. Well, steals a key from the main office, but same diff.
Unfortunately, as always happens in these cases, Peter comes home while she's still inside. She steals a muddy shoe for evidence, and when she hears him come in, she goes and dangles off his balcony. She only escapes notice by swinging into the balcony below.
But while she was there, she noticed Peter has a cuckoo clock, and when she hears that one of the victims heard music, she wonders if there might be a connection, or do those clocks just go cuckoo? Lady, something here is going cuckoo all right...
She tries to pass the shoe on to her lawyer boyfriend, but he kinda sees this as crazy, and he's not wrong. He can't explain the shoe to the police, its highly inadmissible, etc etc. Jane's terrified of what he might do next, and living so close to her already traumatised daughter makes it worse.
Jane decides to turn the tables on Peter, and starts calling him, and threatening him with her knowledge. He plays it innocent and clueless, as she calls repeatedly. It's a good reversal of his own tactics, as she keeps calling back, but terribly unwise for her.
Imagine if this movie was made just a FEW years later? With caller id? Or *69? Or the ability to call back the last person who called? Jane calling from her house is STILL exceedingly unwise.
Worst of all, it incites Peter, so he has to drive off and find a new victim to release some stress. Good going, Jane. Enjoy that blood on your hands!
He finds a new stripper to stalk, and follows her home. He appears right outside her shower door, face pressed against the glass, and kills her. Is Jennifer give notes from her mom?
Later, Peter is watching the news talk about him, and Jane accidentally uses a phrase in her report, that she called him over the phone. Which he immediately recognises. And now he has her name, since she's *on the news*. Ooops.
She calls over to Peter's and since he's not there, she sneaks over again. But he's right outside, waiting for HER to leave, so HE can break into HER apartment. Tonight, on House Swap!
He breaks in, and poor Tracy is completely oblivious. If only a giant chicken were to rush in and save the day with an overly drawn out, yet hilarious, fight across town.
Peter toys with her by moving the knife she's using to make dinner, and then putting it right back. Tracy may not be able to see her attacker, but she knows something is wrong.
As a visually impaired person, that is just *mean*, dude. But I really like how he plays with her, feeling this new sense of even greater power. I mean yes, it's terrible, but the character revels in it, and the actor plays it perfectly.
The cat and three blind mice game goes on for a bit, all while Mom is over at Peter's playing with his cuckoo clock.
Peter finally finds and assaults Tracy, and she finally lets out her first sound since her last attack; a struggling scream. She also discovers that her vision is coming back, although she may as well have been in carbonite, for all the clarity it has so far.
Tracy gets mom's gun, and her vision is rapidly returning, enough to make Peter freak the squawk out when she starts shooting and coming damned close.
She actually, finally, manages to hit him in the gut, but Tracy obviously isn't a fan of this site because, and say it all together now, Peter is Not Really Dead.
Tracy has enough time before realising that to head to the bathroom, see herself for the first time in years, and uh...smear some blood all over her face and bare chest. Well, this just got weird.
Mom finally rushes home, after seeing Peter from his own apartment, and finds the discarded gun in the hallway. Mom saves the day with a well aimed shot to the head, splattering his brains all over the shower door, before he smashes through it.
Jane hugs her daughter, comforting her, and Tracy says her first word, her mom's name, and happy ending! I gotta say though, I'm kinda not cool with another violent assault restoring her vision and voice. That's a horrible message to send. And a very sudden ending.
Video: Looks pretty solid, for the time and budget of it.
Audio: Also solid.
Sound Bite: "A guy changing his clothes in the garage doesn't [make sense]."
Body Count: Much like the rest of this movie, a pretty average outing. Not too small, not a bloodbath, just enough to justify the story.
1 - 13 minutes in, and we get a surprising turn as Jeff dies before Debbie, and is beheaded.
2 - But Debbie doesn't last much longer before she's choked by the killer.
3 - Another victim dies in her backseat.
4 - Some poor guy just looking for some quiet gets a knife to the throat.
5 - His girlfriend gets a little death shortly afterwards.
6 - Herbert finds a stripper and kills her
7 - And Herbert finally meets his own end as Jane shoots him in the face.
Best Corpse: The movie blows its wad there pretty early, because you ain't gonna top the very sudden, graphic, and on screen beheading of Jeff.
Blood Type - C+: There's a few good moments here and there, nothing too spectacular. Most of the points are awarded for that early beheading and the blood splatter when Herbert gets shot.
Sex Appeal: Naked breasts scattered throughout.
Drink Up! Every time someone makes a phone call.
Video Nasties: A short clip of Herbert and Jane in his apartment.
Movie Review: On the one hand, this feels like a tv movie. It's simple, it looks pretty cheap to make, and uses a few locations. When the tension gets going, it's actually pretty good, and builds the suspense fairly well, but otherwise there's a lot of sitting and waiting for Herbert to kill people. You know where this movie is going the instant Jane sees Herbert, and its just a matter of waiting for the dominoes to fall. It's certainly not bad, and well made, but it's very dated, and very straightforward. You're just waiting for the payoff, and the wait is just about worth it. And I love the very simple story of "the killer could be anyone...including your own neighbour!" But if you're looking for a simple flick to watch, this is not too bad. Three out of five phonecalls.
Entertainment Value: It's hard to find pure entertainment silliness here. The acting isn't bad, no one acts real silly or chews scenery. Herbert is played fairly straight even. The best, most fun scene, is watching him toy with Tracy. Nothing too stand out, but nothing bad. Two out of five heads in the aquarium.