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3 an a half stars   Cheese Rating: 75% Fierce Fondue!

"He's Murdered 12 Women.
The 13th Is About To Fight Back."

directed by: Ken Wiederhorn
starring: Lauren Tewes, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Di Santi, Peter DuPre, Gwen Lewis, Kitty Lunn, Timothy Hawkins, Ted Richert

(back of video blurb):


        A sleepy marina community is transformed into a group of terrified residents when a gruesome series of sex murders continues unchecked.

       Police investigations seem to lack urgency, and Jane, a local television news reader appeals to viewers to pass on useful information to herself.

       Jane's boyfriend asks her to move in with him, but she is more concerned with protecting her blind and deaf-mute sister Tracy, with whom she is living. Tracy's condition is rooted in a childhood trauma when she was raped and left for dead.

       Jane's persistant enquiries lead her to break into the apartment of a man she suspects, searching for evidence. She uses the same frightening tactics on him which the killer uses - making menacing telephone calls. But her ploy backfires when he recognises the voice as that of the TV news reader..."

choice dialogue:

"If we wen't around arresting everybody without a belt they'd run out of [jail] space in no time!"

Jane's Boyfriend tries dissuade her from her current line of investigation

slash with panache?

        Back in the early 80's there were, as you know if you're a regular reader of , an avalanche of slasher flicks blotting the silver screen with gobs of gore. Most were your usual teen pruners- stalking those too stupid to realise that moonlit strolls in hot pants weren't the best idea. However, there were a few films that owed as much to the Grindhouse as they did to Carpenter's HALLOWEEN - EYES OF A STRANGER is one of them. Along with such dubious 'pleasures' as DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE (1980) and DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE (1980), it, whilst not being quite as debased as either of those two, signifies the kind of film that had women lining up round the block (not to see the film- rather to bash patrons round the head with placards!).

       A welcome dollop of cheese is added to help the sleaze go down courtesy of a slightly demented Nancy Drewesque performance from Lauren Tewes (of TV's LOVE BOAT no less!). She plays Jane, a feisty news anchor woman at a Miami based TV station who's reporting on a series of rape murders of local women. Seeming to have her own private agenda she gravely intones to the audience, "It's important for the people themselves to demonstrate their concern over this situation. We've got a psycho running around out there. Every women should report anything unusual- any odd encounter." She even gives her co-host Roger a hard time (on air!) if he doesn't take the recent spate of murders gravely enough when he reports their details. … It turns out that the recent spate of murders have hit a raw nerve because her sister, Tracy, was abducted as a child, raped and left for dead after she had made her wait for outside a house alone (the abduction is shown in a leering flashback sequence). Tracy survived her ordeal (now played by 19 year old Jennifer Jason Leigh (although she looks much younger)), but was left deaf, dumb and blind from shock- and now lives with Jane in their marina apartment.

       Completely by chance Jane begins to suspect her fat slob neighbour, Stanley Herbert (John De Santi) of the killings after she spies him changing his shirt and acting strangely in the apartment building's underground car-park. She puts on her sleuth hat to prove his guilt- something the audience is all too well aware of after a very half hearted attempt to hide his face near the beginning is abandoned to show him stalking without a disguise- (So that 'aint much of a spoiler folks- EYES OF A STRANGER doesn't set itself up as a whodunnit- in-fact you have to wonder exactly what it wanted to be).

       The killer phones his victims before he closes in on them, which is an obvious attempt to repeat some of the thrills from the phone terror formula initiated by BLACK CHRISTMAS (1975) and honed by WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979). It pretty much goes without saying that the film fails in that department miserably. The sounds of Herbert giggling down the phone and saying "I'm going to fuck you bitch!" is certainly sleazy enough, but he's usually re-buffed with bored sounding sarcasm, one of his victims-to-be quipping, "Why don't you stick it in your ear and go jump in the bay!". Also him sing-songing most of his threats- "I'm going to… k-i-l-l... you … De-b-bie!" is pretty ridiculous; as is the fact that we are supposed to swallow the fact that, after tormenting a woman by phone in her office, he knows the number of the emergency phone in the lift as she flees so as to carry on the menacing her!

       The only scene that even approaches generating any scares is one where Herbert follows home an English waitress from a topless go-go bar , causing her to remark "Is this someone's idea of a bloody joke?", as launches into another one of his giggling phones tirades. There are a couple of decent jump scenes and there's that old slasher flick classic- a decapitated head in an unusual place (this time a fish tank). So we can be thankful of small mercies.

       But really, it was only Tewes' cheesy bug-eyed performance that kept me from jabbing at the eject button, it was fun to see how far she'd go with the increasingly daft lengths she took to snoop on the killer ( I really got a kick out of the 'cuckoo clock as vital clue', which lead Tewes to deadpan the line, "This is kinda crazy, but can a cuckoo clock make music- or does it just go cuck-o-o-o?"… And her turning the tables on the killer- "Let's talk about you Mr phone freak!"). … Poor Jennifer Jason Leigh though is clearly under the impression that she's in a much better film and is pretty convincing in her role as deaf, dumb, blind, but feisty teen. However, I doubt she pops this tape on at parties and gets all misty eyed reminiscing! To think that Holly Hunter took THE BURNING off her résumé- I wouldn't be surprised if Leigh didn't go to Hell and back in an effort to seek and destroy every copy of this turkey!

       Most of the time the film shuffles from one pretty suspenseless scene to another- all the while bathed in that pastel nihilistic look that so many of this early 80's skid row flicks share- you know, that peculiar ambience resulting from a combination of blistering sunshine, cheap film stock and a bad video transfer. In fact, despite all its sleazy trappings, EYES OF THE STRANGER plays like a long forgotten TV movie of the week- looking all the more anaemic as a result of practically all Tom Savini's gore effects being hacked out prior to its release. It eventually limps to a climax which is minorly rousing , but is sign-posted clearly from about 10 minutes in; and will only come as a shock if you haven't seen REAR WINDOW (1954) or WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967) - this flick's director clearly had.

       [ ... not that it would spoil it a great deal (let's face it- what could?!), but Jennifer Jason Leigh's big scene comes at the end of this movie. So, if you want to see what happens (including one of the only half-decent Savini gore-fx to survive the censors snippage) then go here. ]

BODYCOUNT 8   bodycount!   female:3 / male:5

       1) Female found dead floating in water
       2) Male decapitated (off-screen) with meat cleaver
       3) Female strangled (off-screen) with belt
       4) Female killed (method unseen)
       5) Male stabbed in the neck
       6) Female has throat slit
       7) Female killed (method unseen)
       8) Male shot through forehead