Search This Blog

observation notes: Evil Eyes

This film marks a pair of big debuts: not only is it the first film directed by Mark Atkins (Battle of Los Angeles, Haunting of Winchester House, Halloween Night, etc.), it is also the first film written by Naomi Selfman (Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, #1 Cheerleader Camp, upcoming Barely Legal). And as debut go, on both accounts, Evil Eyes is a good showcase of two burgeoning talents destined for B-movie greatness.

When a screenwriter (Adam Baldwin, "Firefly") is hired by an ominous producer (Udo Kier, Andy Warhol's Dracula and Frankenstein, Suspiria, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective) to write a film about a real-life slaughtered family, things get fer-reaky when the grisly murders he scripts begin to happen in the real world. 

I was surprised to find this film much more cerebral than I expected. That's not a slam or anything, I just expected a high-octane relentless assault of gore and violence, and what I got was a suspensefully-paced intellectual thriller with supernatural undertones.

Adam Baldwin as the screenwriter was his usual gruff, gritty, and unapologetically-independent self. And just as this attitude made him a formidable space mercenary, it is also an appropriate balance of brashness and swagger for a big-time Hollywood screenwriter (I don't actually know any to verify this, but I trust what the movies tell me about the people who make them.).

As for Udo Kier, what can I say about this true cinematic treasure that hasn't been said a million times before? I don't know what it is - his creepiness, his charm, his thick accent, the copious amounts of turtlenecks he wears - but there's something about this guy that  have always liked; he's like a European Steve Buscemi. Here he inhabits the role of producer as militantly fragile, commanding but not in command, if that makes any sense whatsoever. He might be a little stiff in scenes, but his mere presence makes a scene foreboding, so, mission accomplished.

Rounding out the cast is a Ms. Jennifer Gates as AB's long-time GF. This was Ms. Gates first film as well (and in fact one of only two features she's been in), but she never came across as a rookie to me, holding her own in scenes with the more accomplished actors. She played the part as diligently doting but never docile; she was sweet, demure, dangerously devoted and overall endearing.

In a nutshell, then, I found this one to be an great concept - a kind of In The Mouth of Madness Asylum-style - that builds its suspense well, is always thrilling while not resorting to the cheap and easy scares, and is definitely a smarter-than-average-axe-murderer-movie. The film is subtle, restrained and savvy, in script and direction. Add some truly inventive kills and well-developed characters and the result is an above-average thriller. If it was my studio, I would have given Atkins and Selfman copious work as well; these two are true All-Stars.

What else can I say? Let's see...there are shades, in my opinion, of Lost Highway, to the point the word "Lynchian" is even in the script, and it totally works in this surreal, cerebral, non-linear-yet-frightening-cohesive film. 

There are hidden gems in the Asylum's catalog, and I fell as though I may have just discovered the brightest one.


  1. You might find this interesting -- we actually shot two completely different endings for EVIL EYES. One is the one you get on the released version, the other possibly even more "lynchian" ending made an appearance at a screening at "Another Hole in the Head" San Francisco's independent horror film festival in 2004. That version also has a completely different score as well done by yours truly. I've always been interested in the idea of the asylum doing some kind of boutique release of that version.
    -- Mark Atkins

  2. that sounds awesome! you gotta get that ending released! maybe a criterion eclipse series of boutique asylum films (a guy can dream). and you score as well? jeez man, you're one-guy studio!