[review by JA Kerswell]
|Bitchy midel Alexis Carpenter is about to finish her final catwalk in CRYSTAL EYES.
Argentinian neo-Giallo CRYSTAL EYES is a very entertaining, highly stylised tribute to the genre’s 80s neon excesses. Unlike many other attempts at a retro Giallo, Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano’s film actually delivers a linear murder mystery plot that pays tribute to the likes of Carlo Vanzina’s fashion world set Giallo NOTHING UNDERNEATH (1985). A year after a bitchy, coked-up model dies in a fiery accident, those involved in an anniversary tribute to her are killed off by someone in a full-body silicone model drag.
Everyone seems to hate top model Alexis (Camila Pizzo), who holds up an avant-garde, subterranean fashion show with her constant trips to the bathroom to powder her nose (Colombian style). After throwing hot coffee in the face of her make-up artist Barbara (Valeria Giorcelli), Alexis struts the runway. She spots a bottle of Champagne under a grill in the floor and swigs from it; only to spill some on wiring below that ignites the wedding dress she is modelling. She transforms into a shrieking inferno in front of horrified onlookers - including her brother Hernán (Nacho Joshas).
|The attention to 80s detail in CRYSTAL EYES is often quite remarkable.
A year later, in 1985, a contest is to be held to find the model for the cover of Atilla Magazine in a tribute to the late Alexis. The competition has been organised by Lucía L’uccello (Silvia Montanari), the head of a local fashion house - and she tells the models the winner won’t be announced until all the photos have been taken. Although she hints that Eva (Anahí Politi) and Irene (Erika Boveri) are both in the front running to be the much coveted Cover Girl. Miss L’uccello is subsequently perturbed that the late Alexis’ dresses have been stolen and has instructed fashion designer Antón (Ernesto Claudio) to make replicas to not delay things.
However, before the competition can get in full swing, someone starts to kill off the fashion set one-by-one …
The attention to detail in CRYSTAL EYES is at times quite staggering. The film often nails the fashion and feel of an 80s Giallo in a way that the majority of retro horror films just can’t seem to manage. And, although I wasn’t in Italy in the 1980s, I did live through every gaudy craze and pop culture moment that decade had to offer. Although stylised to an almost cartoonish degree, the characters feel like they wouldn’t be out-of-place in say TOO BEAUTIFUL TO DIE (1988). Like that film, there is little real sense of gravitas - it is style-over-substance taken to its logical conclusion. All neon-lit, stage smoke filmed MTV superficiality with Hard Rock teased hair and lightning bolt shades of eye makeup. In other words, it is a perfect representation of the period of the Giallo it is either paying tribute to or affectionately pastiching. Despite an obviously meagre budget (which leads to some muffled dialogue), the filmmakers make clever use of tight angles on outside shots and other tricks to hide problems from any financial shortcomings.
|Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano's tribute to 80s Gialli features a remarkable looking killer.
The film features a unique killer in the shape of someone dressed in full-body latex with an exaggerated silicone fashion model mask with huge unblinking eyes. To add to the high strangeness and campiness, the killer does runway moves and poses as they hunt their victims. CRYSTAL EYES beautifully evokes the evolution of the Giallo and its influence on the North American slasher with an extended chase and showdown at a theatre that evokes that other exemplary marrying of the two genres, Michele Soavi’s STAGEFRIGHT (1987).
The filmmaker's love of the Italian horror thriller genre extends beyond the 1980s and there are many nods to its 1970s heyday, too. From the numerous references to Dario Argento (deadly spiky sculptures and black leather gloves) to Mario Bava (mannequins and fashion houses of death). Helping to add to the sense of unrealness, the fashion house of Ms L’uccello is clearly a model and the insides and ornamental windows are fashioned on the vivid colours and architecture of the dance academy in Argento’s SUSPIRIA (1977). Even obscure references - such as including someone being given a bunch of Chrysanthemums (“the flowers of death”) - show that the makers know their genre (in that case Umberto Lenzi’s EYEBALL (1975)).
The director’s previous films, the shorts UN VIERNES NEGRO (which translates as BLACK FRIDAY) (2010) and UN VIERNES NEGRO 2 (2011) were also set in 1985 - but were modelled much more on 80s slashers (although in a quirky and very individual way). Sadly, despite the good notices for CRYSTAL EYES the pair have released nothing since.
CRYSTAL EYES is currently available for streaming on Amazon UK and on Shudder.
female: 6 / male: 2
1) Female burns to death
2) Male throat slit with cut throat razor
3) Female stabbed in the back with a drill
4) Female stabbed with shard of glass
5) Female drowned in bath tub
6) Male found with throat cut
7) Female impaled on crystal sculpture
8) Female found strangled
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