The Eyes Below Movie Review
Written by Becky Roberts
Written and directed by Alexis Bruchon
2022, 77 minutes, Not Yet Rated.
World Premiere at Frightfest on 26th August 2022
Vinicius Coelho as Eugene
We have all been there: awoken in the middle of the night, only to think that a draped coat is a cloaked figure at the end of our beds or a reflection in the window is a stranger peeping in. Is this a nightmare? Are our minds playing tricks on us? This is how we meet Eugene Darrancourt (Vinicius Coelho), an investigative journalist who, on the verge of breaking a big case, finds himself spooked in the middle of the night by something lurking in the shadows of his bedroom. Only, this doesn’t appear to be bumps in the night, for something sinister really is creeping beneath his bed covers.
The Eyes Below is the brainchild of writer, producer and director Alexis Bruchon, the second installment in the soon-to-be trilogy following his feature debut The Woman With Leopard Shoes (2020), which was our first glimpse of Bruchon’s highly stylised, highly compact suspense art form. There, we shared the intense fear and claustrophobia of a burglar hiding in the closet of a house when its owners return – and here too we are predominantly confined to one room and forced to live the victim’s nightmare. This time, it’s entirely (as opposed to mostly) dialogue-less, and instead of a film noir black and white palette, we are plunged into nighttime darkness where the only relief is provided by the flickering orange glow from the room’s fireplace and the occasional stream of torch beam.
Such a dark palette demands a lights-out viewing experience yourself, though just as demanding on the audience is being plunged into Eugene’s uneasy world of darkness. Rarely is a whole frame visible, and there’s a reliance on close-ups as a vital visual storytelling aid as Eugene looks around for clues from the confines of his bed – which he seems to be supernaturally shackled to, physically suppressed – to find out who the perpetrator is. This is the cunning vehicle Bruchon uses to entrap the viewer in the suffocating sheer terror and helplessness experienced by Eugene, and it’s bloody effective… if a little exhausting by an hour in.
With no dialogue or, as The Woman With Leopard Shoes resorted to, text messaging, and the protagonist held captive beneath his covers for the majority of its duration, The Eyes Below has a limited framework from which to tell its story. But through symbolism, clever camerawork, and some fantastical imagery, blurring nightmare and reality, which is able to creatively take us past the bedposts, Bruchon manages to create a narrative that just about warrants its feature length, not to mention an end reveal that satisfyingly ties into the enduring aesthetic.
What smothering terror will Bruchon have us endure in the trilogy’s final thrill ride? Who knows, but I, for one, am here for it.
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