Saturday, October 5, 2013

EYES OF A STRANGER (Ken Weiderhorn, 1981, USA)

A woman bears the burden of malignant guilt over the sexual assault of her younger sister, a childhood trauma that has left her sibling blind, deaf, and mute. EYES OF A STRANGER is a feminist retelling of Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW, where the women are empowered to act independently and whose actions are not determined by patriarchal egocentrism.

Jane Harris is a reporter for a local news station, a professional who lives her own life as caregiver to her crippled sister; a self-sufficient woman who loves a local attorney but doesn’t rely on him for support. Director Ken Weiderhorn juxtaposes Jane’s passionate reporting with the silly antics of the male weatherman: a specific plot device to discredit the testosterone fueled clich├ęs that propel the horror genre. This purposeful break with convention leads the film into new and exciting emotional territory though it still titillates with instances of graphic violence and bare breasts. Weiderhorn subverts the genre by using its own devices, narratively focusing upon Jane and her explorations into the suspect’s private life.

In standard Hitchcock fashion, the killer is revealed early in the film but suspense is generated through empathetic connection to the characters as the violence escalates towards its grim conclusion. Even the killer is given the harmless name Stanley Herbert, an overweight man of baby-fat innocence, who looks (not surprisingly) like Raymond Burr from REAR WINDOWeven down to the glasses. Look for the subtle homage to Tom Savini whose makeup is used to realistic effect and Weiderhorn’s own late night showing of SHOCK WAVES. The film’s vicious climax ends with forcible compulsion and four bright flashes: not from a camera but a .38 special.

Final Cut: (B+)