All right, four days in. Halfway there! Today, I'm going back to the promised land of the eighties with Avery Crounse's period nightmare, Eyes Of Fire.
Forced out of their community, a group of eighteenth-century settlers set up stakes in a remote valley only to find they might not be alone.
I remembered the striking coverbox above from back in the day, but I'd never seen the film until last week at a rare 35mm screening downtown. It was a real treat to view it in its best possible form, because as you can see, current video versions are murky to say the least. This is a shame, as this film features such wonderful production and creature designs.
I have heard this film described as “The Witch before The Witch”, and I think that is very apt, as not only are the stories similar, but also their attention to detail and dedication to crafting a time and place. Additionally, the performers were one hundred per cent committed and, perhaps most impressive, both efforts were confident debuts.
However, while Robert Eggers' film was an exercise in restraint, Crounse spends much time externalizing the threats encountered by his protagonists. The film is bathed in the surreal, in a way that only the eighties could have nurtured. Today's filmmaking climate just doesn't allow for pictures like this anymore. Though, I don't want to sound like the film is too obtuse to be accessible, as it has some well crafted scares, as well.
I was again reminded of how glad I was that I was not alive during this era. It must have been so exhausting to have threats coming from every angle, not the least of which being cripping paranoia. Though to be fair, with the current political climate to the south, it sometimes feel like those attitudes are not as far off as they should be.
Eyes of Fire was a great little oddity with an uncomprising visual style. It's a shame that Crounse only made two other films (the decidedly less supernatural ventures The Invisible Kid and Sister Island) as he had an exciting voice that recalled the work of Ken Russell. I'm just glad we still have guys like Rob Eggers around to carry the torch.