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  Eyes of a Stranger Investigative ReportingBuy this film here.
Year: 1981
Director: Ken Wiederhorn
Stars: Lauren Tewes, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John DiSanti, Peter DuPre, Gwen Lewis, Kitty Lunn, Timothy Hawkins, Ted Richert, Toni Crabtree, Robert Small, Stella Rivera, Dan Fitzgerald, Jose Baramonde, Luke Halpin, Rhonda Flynn, Tony Federico
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rating:  6 (from 3 votes)
Review: A body has been found in the sea on the Miami coast, evidence that a serial killer is at work in the area. News anchorwoman Jane Harris (Lauren Tewes) is very concerned about this revelation, and makes sure to put the message across to the women watching that should they see anything suspicious they have to contact the police. Debbie (Gwen Lewis) works in a local bar and sees the bulletin, but tells her boss that she should be able to handle herself after a night at her job there, yet when she gets home she is the recipient of increasingly sinster telephone calls. Will she be the next victim?

Yup, she will, and so begins this curious feminist thriller. By all accounts it should play out as a horror film, with its gore effects by Tom Savini, a scary killer on the loose and director Ken Wiederhorn coming off a cult success in the chiller Shock Waves (scenes of which are prominently featured on television), but really it's more of a suspense piece than an all out bloodbath. It is curious because although the male viewers are treated to the sight of many of the actresses in a state of undress, the script by Eric L. Bloom and Ron Kurz continually takes the women's side.

Which as they are quite often the victims in this tale few people should have a problem with if it was not for the male characters being thoroughly useless or worse. We are well aware of the killer's identity from almost the very beginning, so the plot machinations have us worried when it quickly turns out that he lives in the apartment opposite the one where Jane and her sister live. To underline the whole "all men are worthless" tone, Jane's sister Tracy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has been left deaf, dumb and blind after a harrowing childhood assault.

But really she is in this state so we can have a last act setpiece where the film opts for a spot of oneupmanship over Wait Until Dark - the terrorised woman isn't only blind like Audrey Hepburn was, she's deaf and dumb too! How can she possibly survive? Although if you can't guess the twist that happens in the last five minutes then you haven't seen enough movies. Before we reach that genuinely skin-crawling finale, Jane turns detective because offering advice to the ladies of Miami is not quite resourceful enough for her and she has, she feels, to track down the bad guy herself.

Not to hard when she notices him in the underground car park changing out of his bloodstained clothes, which places the realisation in her mind that here is her main suspect. She ends up sneaking into his apartment to steal a shoe she feels can prove that he was at the beach where bodies have been found, but when she hands it over to her boyfriend David (Peter DuPre), who has contacts in the police, he is dismissive of her claims. Are we supposed to notice that David looks strangely like a more handsome version of the killer? Considering how this resolves itself, any males watching may well feel denigrated that they've all been lumped in with the worst examples of their gender, but Eyes of a Stranger is pretty slick for all that reverse chauvinism, though weirdly written, produced and directed by men. Music by Richard Einhorn and Red Neinkirchen.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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