Eye Without A Face


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Eye Without A Face
"As in the Hitchcock classic, the supporting characters help to balance the film and substantiate its themes, all the while implicating viewers in Henry's voyeurism."

Meet Henry (Dakota Shapiro). Henry has a hobby. Like a lot of young men, he likes looking at women, but Henry doesn't do it on bars or clubs, or on the street. He hacks into their webcams. Henry's roommate, Eric (Luke Cook) assumes this is a sex thing and wants to watch them take their clothes off, but Henry is horrified by that. Such things are private, he says. "What, and the rest of their lives aren't?" Eric counters.

Each man thinks the other is behaving inappropriately, but they're mates, so what can they do? Each also feels that the other is basically a nice guy who wouldn't actually harm anyone. Through the webcams, Henry frequently sees women having to deal with men who are definitely not nice guys, and this observation - together with the opportunity to feel better about himself by contrast - seems to be part of the appeal for him. He imagines himself as the women's guardian angel, even though he doe nothing to actually help them. He only takes action when the situation is reversed - when he comes to believe that one of the women he is watching may be a serial killer.

So far, so Rear Window, though this film has a different set of twists up it sleeve and Henry is trapped inside not by a broken leg but by agoraphobia. He has flashbacks to a troubled childhood and the bullying father from who he inherited the house. He and Eric argue over the rent but Eric still assumes a caring role. The tragedy is that he's bad at it, discouraging Henry from taking his medication because he doesn't believe in that stuff. Instead he recommends cannabis, though his friend's illness is gradually starting to look less like simple anxiety and more like a condition which that drug is known to exacerbate: schizophrenia.

Henry's illness brings an interesting dynamic to the film, making him a more sympathetic character despite his unethical behaviour - he cannot, as we are shown, cope with normal interaction with women. It also makes him an unreliable narrator. Eric is aware of this and flips between getting drawn into his beliefs and trying to persuade him to entertain more rational explanations. Again, he's clumsy in his handling of it, but this makes room for some engaging dramatic scenes. Cook has real talent and this role gives him room to make use of it.

As in the Hitchcock classic, the supporting characters help to balance the film and substantiate its themes, all the while implicating viewers in Henry's voyeurism. On the one hand the women he watches don't behave like most women do in front of their computers, and the camera angles they've established seem ludicrously generous, but on the other, it's reasonable to allow that he has hacked into many different cameras and selected these few to stack with for those very reasons. Director Ramin Niami gradually breaks away from the limiting form of the static shots but this seems to reflect the direction of Henry's attention, telling us something about his character.

There's some really good work in here, which makes it all the more disappointing that the film has a dreadful ending - one which cribs heavily from classics of the genre and reinforces damaging stereotypes which their successors have done well to get away from. It's not just that it's derivative and exploitative, it's that - despite a brief bit of pretty framing in its final moments - it's boring. Once it has established where it's going, it does everything by the book, and it's a real shame to see the effort that has gone before wasted like this. Check the runtime, switch off five minutes before the end and you can add an extra star to the score above - you'll have a much more satisfying experience.

Reviewed on: 12 Aug 2021
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Eye Without A Face packshot
An agoraphobic young man hacks the webcams of local women and comes to suspect that one of them is a serial killer.

Director: Ramin Niami

Writer: Ramin Niami

Starring: Dakota Shapiro, Luke Cook, Vlada Verevko, Rebecca Berg, Ashley Elyse Rogers

Year: 2021

Runtime: 98 minutes

Country: US


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