Thursday, 30 August 2018

Crystal Eyes (aka Mirada De Cristal)

The Slice Is Right

Crystal Eyes (aka Mirada De Cristal)
2017 Argentina Directed by  Ezequiel Endelman & Leandro Montejano
Screening 27th August at FrightFest 2018

Crystal Eyes was the last movie I saw at this year’s FrightFest and, like four out of the five I saw this year (excepting the wonderful Luciferina, which I reviewed here), it’s not actually a horror movie. That being said, I did get a little fright when, as I was waiting for Alan Jones to do the opening with the two writer/directors, I felt something moving past my feet and get stuck against my legs in the near darkness of the cinema. I looked down to find it was a black guide dog that had escaped from the owner and crawled under everyone’s feet to get to a spot where my bags and feet were... but it gave me a fright for a moment. After the owner had been reunited with her dog, she went down the front row with it and then, after Alan Jones had given out some free FrightFest perfume to some of the audience (I am now the proud owner of some Eau De Gore... which my mother liked fine when I gave it to her), it was time for him to do his opening spiel. That’s when the brilliant dog got loose a second time and was shuffling around Alan’s feet and running around until it could be settled. Alan had a brilliant come back to being upstaged by this handsome creature, however... he said something along the lines of “Don’t worry. It’s not exactly the first time I’ve had something warm and friendly at my opening.” it was a good line and it got a big laugh from the audience. Then, after a brief intro to the film and a quick discussion with the directors, it was down to business.

Crystal Eyes is pretty much a modern attempt to make an Italian giallo set in the 1980s. As such it was probably my most anticipated film of FrightFest although, in the end, it turned out to be the one I got the least from. That being said, it was still a good movie, especially considering the miniscule budget and I’m pretty pleased that I managed to see five relatively good ones this year... I’ve not always been that ‘on the nose’ with my FrightFest picks, it has to be said.

So you know where you are right from the start with this movie as a nasty but incredibly popular fashion model with the almost too perfect cliché of a name, Alexis Carpenter, played by Camila Pizzo, dies accidentally by her own hand when some circuits short out and she manages to start a fire which leads to her being burnt alive (which doesn’t quite look that realistic but one wonders if the way the film makers achieved this effect is a similar nod to how a director might have solved the same problem decades ago). The scene is interesting but annoyingly busy as the directors give us something which definitely feels like an early 1980s version of the giallo, more akin perhaps to some of the works of Lamberto Bava than those of Dario Argento or Mario Bava... although those two directors are referenced quite a lot in this.

The rest of the film is set one year later, when what appears to be a fashion mannequin goes on a killing rampage when a bunch of people try to put on a show as a tribute to the life of Alexis Carpenter. There’s not much plot, to be honest and there doesn’t have to be. The film takes it’s inspiration, after all, from a bunch of very stylish movies which weren’t all that strong on plot in the first place. If you are not into gialli, though, you might find the film a little wearing in places.

The film is obviously homaging the beautiful colouring in the films of Argento and Bava but, I have to say, I thought the greens and purples used to ‘gialloesque’ up the ante seemed a little faded throughout the picture, it has to be said. The Argento references come thick and fast but the two directors don’t limit themselves just to his giallo films either... there are substantial references to Suspiria all over the picture, including the look of the office of the head of the fashion house putting on this show. Actually, the office set was basically the front room of the house of one of the two directors which they’d tricked out with false walls and it really does show you how you can work with a tiny budget (and over a great period of time) if you have to. The fact that the name of the character of the head of the fashion house, played here by Silvia Montanari, is named Lucía L'uccello, shows you just how ‘behind’ the Argento vibe the directors were here.

That being said, while the feel of the film is more Lamberto Bava than his father Mario, there are some obvious and definite homages to Bava senior, such as  having a giallo set around the fashion world, including mannequins, being an obvious reference to Blood And Black Lace (which I reviewed here). This is further re-enforced with a drowning scene which, I’m pretty sure, closely mirrors the one in the aforementioned Bava masterpiece. That being said, the little add on sequence at the end of the movie, when all seems to be finished but then... oh no, it’s not quite... seems more in spirit with an American director who I’ve always assumed was heavily influenced by gialli anyway. I’m talking about Brian De Palma here and the tone of this last scene seemed to me more like something you would get in one of his early, Hitchcockian thrillers such as Sisters (reviewed here), Dressed To Kill or Body Double and I suspect the directors of this movie are more than familiar with his work too.

And, of course, this being a gialloesque movie, the while thing is given a score, written by Pablo Fuu,  reminiscent of a certain period of that genre, although again it doesn’t quite follow the style of the classic late 1960s/early 1970s gialli such as the jazz infused atonal gut punches of Ennio Morricone or the progressive ‘slasher rock’ of Goblin. This was more like something, again, of the 1980s, with a splash of Goblin’s ‘moved on’ Claudio Simonetti cross pollinated with the sort of sound you’d get from Stelvio Cipriani tackling similar material... at least that’s the way it seemed to me.

Not much else to say about this one. It didn’t quite light my fire like some of the others I’d seen at this year’s FrightFest but it was still a nice ride and the mannequin costumed killer had a kind of iconic look to it, to be sure. That being said, once the mannequin suffers from some major damage towards the end of the movie, it did kinda look like one of the band members from the old 1970s pop group KISS was chasing people around with a straight razor but, you know, there’s not really much wrong with that either.

Crystal Eyes is a good bit of fun and kind of a love letter to Italian giallo with a few horror nods thrown in for good measure (much like Videoman which I saw the night before was, although that’s an entirely different kind of experience... see below for a link to my review). If you like this kind of cinema and are on the look out for new stuff in this vein... well it’s not the best I’ve seen but it’s certainly not the worst either and it’s probably something you should check out if you get the opportunity.

And that’s the end of my personal coverage of this year’s FrightFest (I’m way too poverty stricken to be able to afford a weekend pass to one of these things). I hope you liked my reviews of some of these and I hope you stick with the blog for a while if you’re new to it. Lots of interesting stuff to come still.

FrightFest 2018 @ NUTS4R2

The Most Assassinated Woman In The World


Hammer Horror - The Warner Brothers Years

Videoman (aka Videomannen)

Crystal Eyes (aka Mirada De Cristal)

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