eyes of a stranger is the most generic thriller i’ve ever seen. neither good nor bad, it actually takes a bit of effort after watching it to remember that you’ve seen it as absolutely no aspect of the film makes either a positive or negative impression. if friday the 13th were a piece of devil’s food cake, this film would be a small bowl of vanilla pudding. if halloween were a cherry red ferrari, this film would be a tan colored four-door sedan. i’ve always been aware of eyes of a stranger, but for some reason have never actually sat down to watch it. despite its rather interesting cover art, the utter blandness of the film itself makes me think that years from now i’ll see its dvd case again and think much what i thought last night before putting it in… “why have i never seen this movie?”
eyes of a stranger is essentially a blending of the most boring parts of maniac, rear window and wait until dark. stealing equally from all three, the story features a sexually repressed, overweight and blubbering rapist and murderer , a reporter and amateur sleuth who spots the killer from her apartment balcony in the adjoining building and an attractive blind girl who faces off with the sighted killer in the film’s climax. the tone owes more to hitchcock than the average slasher film but, thanks to tom savini, it manages some graphic death sequences (but even the best of these rank far below average when compared to savini’s other work during the same period).
the potential victims in this particular film have two very big advantages over most slasher film characters. to begin with, the killer is not really the most intimidating of slashers. sure, he does behead a guy and almost shot-for-shot recreates the car death from halloween… but mostly what he does is giggle in way that doesn’t really scare you as much as just make you kind of embarrassed. part of the reason for his ineffectiveness has to lie in his name. krueger. myers. voorhees. those are the kinds of names you want if you’re an unstoppable killing machine. the name you don’t want is the one from eyes of stranger… stanley herbert.
secondly, the characters in this movie are way ahead of the game as stanley’s fear-inducing object of choice is not a chainsaw or machete — it’s a telephone. while i’ll admit that creepy phone calls can cause a bit of fear (e.g., black christmas), telephones are much easier to flee from than one might initially think. then again, at one point stanley finds a way to make the phone in the elevator ring while a girl is trying to escape to a friend’s house, which i’m fairly certain is impossible unless he found his way into the elevator engineer’s room in the building.
the final scene of the film with jennifer jason leigh (who is just cute as a button in the role of the blind and deaf sister of the super-annoying amateur detective character) facing off against the killer is the highlight of the film. the scene actually reaches some level of effectiveness and originality as the killer moves the plates and knife around as the confused blind girl attempts to cut a piece of cake. unfortunately, the scene quickly falls apart leading to a rather ridiculous conclusion. the earlier parts of the film occasionally work such as a scene where the killer’s face is pressed against a shower door (creepy!) and the previously mentioned beheading, but the film gets bogged down in tedious dialogue exchanges about mud evidence and cuckoo clocks (don’t ask).
to me though, the oddest scene occurs towards the end of the film as stanley breaks his prank-caller m.o. and follows a stripper to her club in hopes of killing her. i understand this film was made in the early 80s and i am no expert on the history of exotic dancing, but some innate knowledge in my lone y chromosome tells me that at no point in history has a strip club owner decided that the dance shown below is what its patrons are clamoring for.