The Eyes Below - FrightFest World Premiere
Director: Alexis Bruchon
Starring: Vinicius Coelho, Pauline Morel
Written by: Alexis Bruchon
Produced by: Alexis Bruchon
Cinematography by: Alexis Bruchon
Original Score by: Alexis Bruchon
On the eve of a life changing corporate investigation, a lawyer settles down in his bed for a sound night's sleep only to be disturbed by a mysterious nightmarish figure in black determined to not let him see the morning.
Remember when you were a kid and your parents sent you to bed at night but you had no intention of going to sleep because you were bored and your mind would wonder. So you'd crawl underneath the covers and pretend that you had entered a brand new world full of fantastical creatures and a whole new set of rules that you could break without the hint of any consequences? Without the hindrance of any worries to weight you down? Well that's weirdly not a million miles away from what makes up a good chunk of 'The Eyes Below'.
Alexis Bruchon's incredibly intense second feature is like a spiritual sequel to the superb noir 'The Woman with Leopard Shoes' and is apparently the second opus of a trilogy made with the same concept; a character, a place, a story. It has somewhat of a basic premise but as per Bruchon's particular quirky style of filmmaking, this little 77 minute gem will have you sitting on the edge of your seat, biting your nails wondering what the hell is actually happening.
That's not to say it's a thrill fest, far from it actually. The first third of the film is a slow burn that some folk might really struggle with and there is a fair amount of repetition too. 'The Eyes Below' is more about creating tension instead of showing horror. Those familiar with his previous work will probably enjoy it more and give it a chance. And please do give it a chance because Bruchon's dedication to creating something uniquely visual and thought provoking shouldn't be understated, especially when he is doing most of the work himself hindered (challenged is a better word) by a tiny budget.
Set in one location and filled with gorgeous dimly lit shots illuminated by firelight and augmented by shadows, 'The Eyes Below' is dreamlike is how it plays out. Not quite Lynchian, (although there is a segment underneath the bed covers that reminded me of the infamous Red Room) but still has it's fair share of surrealism and asks enough questions about the legitimacy of Eugene's reality to make it interesting enough. Subtle homages to Giallo cinema are present too. There's a real life story going on here in the background. A very serious incident regarding the possibility of exposing something huge involving a few highly important people on a large corporate level. But that's not the interesting part. It's when the puzzle begins to unfold and Eugene starts to discover clues hidden within messages that has been left for him that the film really picks up pace. Parallel to these discoveries is the looming danger of a slippery black clad assassin who somehow can access Eugene via his bed sheets. It's very weird but intriguing stuff.
Bruchon certainly has an eye for a good shot. He is clearly a fan of art and attempts to utilise this into his work. He likes to focus on particular patterns which presumably have some sort of hidden meaning within the context of the story. And he has a good ear too, creating all the sound design himself. The sound is extremely important in this film and is omnipresent from the very beginning. As Eugene moves, no matter how swift or lethargic, the soundscapes move with him creating this delicate orchestra of movement. It almost sounds like a reverse swoosh and I wonder whether that has any true relevance. Perhaps on the eve of this potentially life changing court case, Eugene's conscious is not only trying to freeze time but reverse it? Is this the universe attempting to communicate with him to tell him he is making a mistake? Or maybe not. Maybe it's just a nifty appropriate sound to accompany his actions.
One thing's for sure, the sound adds to the feeling of claustrophobia, something that is evident Bruchon likes to explore. This feeling is helped by the single location and the fact that Eugene is almost always lying in his bed "trapped" like a prisoner in a cell, or a prisoner in his mind? The idea that this is his own mind playing with him is infinitely questioned. Sometimes the dark assassin figure is there, sometimes it's not. It's ambiguous, even at the very end and it works so much better for it.
- Gavin Logan
'The Eyes Below' received its World Premiere at FrightFest 2022 on August 26th