When I began watching Eyes Without a Face I was convinced that this would be one of those older movies where the actual face of the horror would be absent. But boy was I wrong. This movie somehow managed to keep me surprised and shocked the entire way through. Let's just say that in case you've ever been curious to know what removing a face would look like- search no further.
The movie begins with a woman in a pleather jacket dragging a completely lifeless (bad doll) body to a river. We soon find that the body has been discovered- with her face completely removed and only her eyes remaining. She is believed to be one of two people; either the daughter of a well known surgeon or the daughter of some other guy. The surgeon is brought to identify the body where he promptly states that yes it is his daughter. At the funeral the doctor is seen standing with the woman in the pleather jacket....hmmmm! Upon returning home that night the Doc goes upstairs and speaks to his daughter- still alive and well-- only, she has no face.
So it suddenly becomes apparent just how creepy this movie is willing to get. The doctor and his pleather coated accomplice search for girls who bear resemblance to his daughter. In the meantime his daughter is left at home and is forced to wear the creepiest mask I have ever seen.
I was purely convinced in the beginning that we were never going to see what her mangled face looked like. Then the pleather lady put a mask on the girl and when the camera revealed her masked face I practically yelled out. The way it just binds to her face and how she just walks around completely lifeless and devoid of any emotion is just so remarkable. Who needs to see a mangled face when you get to feast your eyes on that creeper?
Now the last thing I would have ever expected from a movie that did it's best to hide the main character's mangled face- was an up close and personal removal of a face. When the doc drew the pencil line on- sure. Even showing the scalpel cutting the flesh- why not? But the attaching of the forceps to all corners of the face and then the actual lifting up of the skin and removing it to reveal the bloody fleshy mush?! Yup. That is exactly what happens.
Now, granted it's not the most convincing face removal- and Hannibal Lector did a better job in half the time-- but the fact that it was showed that up close and personal is amazing- especially for this time. I honestly felt a little sick to my stomach watching it- skin removal has never been my strong suit in the gore department. I was just completely shocked....and I still am....
The movie is filled with so many beautiful and spooky images that constantly surprised me. The release of the dogs and the birds at the end- the way the feathers floated down like snow while the girl walked slowly away. Also the shot by shot evidence of what happened to her face a few weeks after the face graft had healed. Turns out her body rejected the new face and made her looks like our old pal Fred Krueger.
Tough luck on that one. Don't worry though-- her Dad just assumes it was his error and finds a new girl's face to steal! I also loved the constant barking of the dogs in the background. Just a simple added touch that makes things even eerier.
Overall this movie is pretty incredible. The idea of kidnapping girls, stealing their faces and sewing them back onto your daughter's face is just mind blowing. What a concept. I don't think I'll ever be able to get that image of that damned mask out of my head. Apparently John Carpenter once attributed his decision to use Michael's mask to this movie. Pretty understandable-- but Michael Myers's face has never haunted me this badly. Definitely check this one out- it just became available to watch instantly on Netflix. It's extremely well done and just damn intriguing at that.
A great film and post! Love this movie.
I'll never forget the screening at the NFT that I went to in the 70s. The audience were treating it as a creaky old horror movie and giggling at the little car's complete lack of menace and the repetitive music. But they shut up at the operation scene. Shocked silence! And it still works today.
Years ago I read an interview that this was Clive Barker's fave horror. Don't know if he's changed his mind since...
So happy you covered this film. It has been suggested to me on Netflix soooo many times and I would think about it, and then just move on.
After reading your review, I will definitely check it out...scary doll/lifeless faces scare the brown right out of me!
Mark- I would be very shocked if it wasn't still Clive Barker's favorite. That operation scene actually reminded me a bit of Hellraiser- the way it isn't afraid to show certain things just as Hellrasier shows all the muscle tissue and sinew and flesh ripping. I can definitely see some influence there!
Matt-Hooray! And now it's instant watch so go for it! I was really pleased with it and it too had been staring at me for months. Thank goodness for instant watch or I probably would have passed it up in order to watch other such gems as Sleepaway Camp 2 & 3.Make sure you wear a diaper while viewing!
The Criterion DVD version of this is worth getting from Netflix because it contains the director's documentary Blood of the Beasts - which is altogether more disturbing than the movie itself.
Great stuff. I just watched it last week and agree wholeheartedly. So creepy and well done, and rather brutal for its time. Also, I totally dug the circus-y score.
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