Eye Without a Face
The story of a man called Henry (Dakota Shapiro) who spends his days spying on women by hacking their webcams, new thriller Eye Without a Face is built from the cast-offs of superior films: the title from Eyes Without a Face, the basic premise from Rear Window and the lewd-icrous plot from various works of Brian De Palma. Considering how much of the runtime is spent watching strangers on a PC, a better title would have been Rear Windows.
There are three representational factors at play here: women, men and mental illness. The women spend all their time lounging around in lingerie and the men are all creeps – either voyeuristic or violent or both. Even Henry’s likeable housemate Eric (Luke Cook) engages in plenty of underhanded behaviour. Perhaps most troubling is the PTSD that makes Henry spy on people, among other dubious side effects.
All of this would be forgivable in a high-concept thriller if properly handled, but the execution by Iranian director Ramin Niami and his daughter Tara Violet Niami fails to build tension – a shame considering the promising Glitchcockian setup. The story is nonsensical, with Henry doing nothing when he sees the women facing danger, despite viewing himself as their “guardian angel”. Do guardian angels take Sundays off? Because “observer angel” is closer to the truth.
The film successfully presents its two leads as hypocrites. The introverted Henry spies on women at the same time as calling their boyfriends creeps, and the extroverted Eric decries fake Instagram influencers while being one himself. Eric lives the kind of life Peeping Henry can only dream of, making the point that real life is out there, not on a computer screen. It’s a valid critique of incels and trolls, not so much panic attack-prone agoraphobics.
Those themes make this cyber-slasher more interesting than 2007 Rear Window update Disturbia, but compared to the biting social media stalker satire of this year’s Sweat it pales like a shut-in. The delivery mechanism might be modern, but this is the same old retrograde schlock – hack in every sense. And if you thought Disturbia’s tagline (“Every killer lives next door to someone”) was bad, Eye Without a Face does worse: “Alt. Shift. Homicide.” Ctrl+Z might be more appropriate.
Eye Without a Face is released digitally on demand on 23rd August 2021.
Watch the trailer for Eye Without a Face here: