Sunday, October 19, 2014

31 Days of Horror-Day 19: Eyes Without a Face (1960)

(dir. Georges Franju)

*First time viewing

     The first thing you may think of when you hear “Eyes Without a Face”, is that catchy Billy Idol song, but it’s also the title of a fantastic French film that explores beauty, horror, and the limits of guilt and gratitude. Eyes Without a Face is the story of a surgeon who kidnaps young women and cuts off their faces to replace his daughter’s, who was horribly disfigured in a car accident of his own fault. It’s wonderfully mad science explored with elegant precision and stunning imagery.

     Franju’s film mixes gothic beauty with grotesque horror, creating a film that is as startling as it is stunning. I’ll admit that I was surprised by how far the film went with its story (and lack of cutaways during the facial cutting), especially given the time in which the film was made. I found it to be just as risky and important a film for the genre as Hitchcock’s Psycho which debuted the same year (both films would later go on to influence John Carpenter’s Halloween.) But what makes the film all the more surprising and memorable is how the grisly nature of the story is balanced with compassion. Christiane’s transformation, beneath the surface of her mask, is a remarkable work of character development that is achieved with little dialogue. The characters are particularly well-rounded, and the film achieves this easily without relying on much exposition. While a lot horror delves deeper into inhumanity as the story progresses, Eyes Without a Face relies on the process of reclaiming humanity.

Scare Factor: 2/5 Don’t be turned off by the subtitles or fooled by the black and white, Eyes Without a Face pushes the limits in terms of what it will show. It’s not only an exceptional horror film, it’s an exceptional film.

**Available to watch on Hulu Plus

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