The Bad Movie Report

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by Special Guest Dungeonmaster

Howard Paul Burgess

The box for The Killer Eye promises a 1950's style sci-fi adventure.  We see the eye in question and several characters who will be menaced by it in the course of the story.  OK.  Nice premise. I'll rent it.

What the producers really have in mind is making an instant cult classic.  And that's the film's great weakness.  Cult status is something that comes to a movie, not something that can be bred into it.

The beginning has some classic elements.  It's a dark and stormy night.  We see a street in a large city.  There's a large building- probably residential, because some of the window have lamps in them and they don't all look the same.  Cars pass in the rain, including a stretch limo.  The limo must belong to a friend of the director, because every time we see the establishing shot of the building we see this limo drive by.  After a while we realize that every time the editors want an establishing shot, they are using the same clip over and over.  Not an auspicious beginning.

Having established that we are in a multi-story apartment building in a large city (although that is irrelevant because, as written, the story could more believably take place at an isolated lab on an island) we now meet some of the characters.

Grady, a scientist, is talking to a young man who clearly doesn't attend any of the better prep schools.  In fact, the young man is obviously a street hustler: he offers to perform various, uh, services for Grady.  Grady tells the boy that all he wants is the use of one of his eyes, even though he has been offered the use of a plethora of the lad's organs and/or appendages. Grady puts drops in the boy's eye and waits.  The boy is to look into a device, and he may be the first person in history to see into the Eighth Dimension.

OK.  I'll bite.  Height, width, depth.  That's three.  Maybe time.  That's four.  The Fifth Dimension was an awesome singing group back in the sixties.   But Eighth?  Meanwhile, back at the lab...

Grady's beautiful wife Rita, comes into the lab.  She gives the hustler a Meaningful Glance, and he reciprocates.  Grady tells the boy that he may feel a warm tinging in his eye.  The boy says he feels a warm tingling in his thigh.  Not Moliere, but not a bad exchange of dialog.  And it establishes that the mad scientist is spending way too much time in his lab and not enough time with Mrs. Mad Scientist.

Jacqueline Lovell plays Rita, and she's the only performer in The Killer Eye with an extensive list of credits.  The Internet Movie Database shows her as having made some thirty-seven films, none of them the kind of movie that plays at the local Multiplex.

Titles for Ms. Lovell's films (she sometimes appears under the name Sara St. James, too) include Body Language, Femalien, and Nude Bowling Party.  No, I did not make that last one up.

Her resume to the contrary, Ms. Lovell is a good actress and brings a lot to an underwritten part.  Here's hoping that some astute casting director will spot her and cast her in something with, perhaps, a larger costuming budget.

Rita is here to argue about the cost of these experiments, and the grant money the research project isn't yet getting.  Unnoticed by the squabbling couple, the boy gets up and looks into the apparatus.  He rubs his eye harder and harder and staggers around the lab. Meanwhile, Rita has moved on from the trivial subject of the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars that are being squandered on establishing communication with the Eighth Dimension to the fact that she wants more sex.   Grady retorts that We had sex last Thursday- and she counters by telling him that she's never had an orgasm.

Meanwhile, the boy's eye has gotten as big as a beach ball, popped right out of his head, and crawled away.  I just hate it every time that happens. The eye is a giant thingie on a huge stalk.  It looks at charts of the male and then the female reproductive systems- possibly wondering why a doctor doing research on the ocular system has these on the walls of his lab- and then crawls away.

And here is where a film like this will rise or fall.  Just how convincing, how menacing, or how laughable is the monster.  I fondly remember a movie in the early seventies (can't recall the title) in which mutant lizard monsters from a swamp all had a line of skin between their tennis shoes and their scaly legs. Actually, the eye isn't that bad a piece of special effects makeup.  It stands up on a long stalk and isn't that badly constructed.  If we didn't get such a good look at it so often, it could be pretty convincing: there is, in theatre, such a thing as a willing suspension of disbelief.  This is why the clunky special effects in old movies like the original Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman have a charm all their own.

But this eye is definitely clunky.  But if we didn't see the darned thing so clearly so often, we might just believe it more.

Grady finally comes in and sees what's happened.  The boy's cold, lifeless body is stretched out on the floor, and there's a big, bloody hole in his head where his eye used to be. He looks about the lab, music swells, and the titles roll.  This must set some sort of a record, because the titles come a good seven minutes into the action.  And, actually, they're pretty good opening titles, utilizing illustrations from medical textbooks and images of lab equipment and skulls.   As many movies as I see, none of the names were familiar.  The technical people are all non-union except for the casting director, which was money well spent.

The action switches to Tom and Joe, the two stoners who live in the basement.  They have a fruit cocktail of pills to liven up the evening.  They are both hunky, both clad only in their undershorts- their costumes for the entire evening.  Their apartment is decorated with campy posters for American International movies.  Rita enters and flirts with the stoners.

The stoners serve a number of purposes.  They are comic relief, so we root for them to get killed as quickly as possible.  And because they're so cartoonish, we feel no remorse about this.  They also illustrate that Rita isn't the sharpest tool in the shed.  Even though these fellows are quite clearly most interested in their drugs and each other, in that order, she attempts to seduce them.  Of course they are so stoned that nothing much makes a big impression on them.

Should you wish to keep straight which stoner is which, Tom's nipples are pierced, Joe's aren't.  It's little details of characterization that make the magic.

The time passes again, and we meet Jane.  She's married to Morton, the nice young scientist who resembles Keanu Reeves.  They are dressing to go out for the evening when Grady arrives, more than a little agitated by the evening's events.  Grady opens the glass doors from the hall.  When he does this we get a most excellent view of the studio lights used to illuminate the set, reminding us that this is indeed a movie and not real life. We'll see them again.

The action returns to the lab, where Grady explains the corpse on the floor of the lab as a cadaver he brought home for research purposes, and Morton notices the missing eye.  He speculates that the eye got pushed out.

And now for something completely different: Rita is making out with one of the stoners while the other one watches.  The young men are so stoned that they do not notice that Rita is wearing a black bra and panties and looks very, very good, or that there's a huge eye the size of a microwave oven in the room with them.  Alas, poor Rita remains unfulfilled.

Grady implies that he's had a breakthrough that could lead to a nice five year grant.  But Morton realizes that the corpse he's helping dispose of is that of the unfortunate subject of the experiment.  But the scope did show a flux in the dimensional wall when the kid looked thorough the eyepiece. Flux in the dimensional wall.  Now there's pseudo-scientific dialog.  Or, the name of a band.

Enter Creepy Bill.  That's the way the character is listed in the IMDB.  Creepy Bill.  This is the third comic relief character, and we can't wait for him to get killed.  Bill exists to deliver exposition and break the tension.

Blake Bailey plays Bill, and seems to be channelling the spirit of Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice.  It's a good thing that voice patterns and walks can't be copyrighted, because this would be a major infringement.  Every move of Bailey's head and hands, every step, every breath he takes comes through as Keaton.  I can only take this as a tribute to Keaton's performance because I've always heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Rita is asleep between the stoners.  The eye hovers over them, electricity flashing from it, and Rita stirs in her sleep and the covers slip down enough for her to do a brief topless scene. One of the stoners wakes up briefly and is zapped with green electricity, and a tentacle from the eye gets real, real chummy with Rita for a brief while.  Joe wakes up and screams when he sees the eye: it flees.

Morton is having an attack of conscience.  By now he and Grady have figured out that there was a hole in the dimensional wall and the eye came through it. Grady tells Morton what they should do.  They can use instruments like geiger counters that will help them find the creature and go out in search of it. Not that searching for it would be that hard.  This is, after all, a gigantic eye with electricity flashing from it that moves about on a stalk several feet high.  Even in a cluttered apartment, it would sort of stand out.

This recalls my favorite moment from the appalling remake of Godzilla summer before last.  The giant lizard has terrorized Manhattan and disappears; someone suggests that the lizard may have gone into a building.  This thing is about fifty feet high and a block long.  Gone.  Into.  A.  Building.

So our intrepid scientists go hunting for the Eye. This is, I'll grant you , a very large apartment building.  The establishing shots with the limo driving by show us that.  But we only see three apartments and can only take it on faith that the others exist and are occupied.

Jane is on her treadmill and the Eye comes up behind her.  Music swells.  The tentacles come awfully close to Jane's leg, but she doesn't notice.  They brush against her leg, and she still doesn't notice. She undresses to take a shower.  The eye DOES notice.  She walks into the shower in slow motion, and the eye crawls toward her.  She's in the shower naked and helpless.  Whatever shall happen to her?

Rita decides there's no hope from the stoners, so she gets dressed and gets ready to go upstairs.  Morton enters with the biofeedback detector, which resembles an accessory for a Nintendo. The Eye finally gets a chance to zap Jane with green electricity.  She's helpless.  The Eye decides to check her out.

The good doc keeps looking for biofeedback radiation.  He says this with a straight face.  The machine beeps when it gets turned toward Rita. Jane is in the shower getting chummier and chummier with the Eye.  The presence of the Biofeedback machine disorients the Eye, and the stoner comes out of his trance.  The good doc figures that the biofeedback detector is broken.  Duh.

Creepy Bill comes in to talk to the doc in terms as if he were going to blackmail him. Jane dries off and sits on the bed, wearing her robe.  The Eye comes in behind her.  Somehow figuring out Earth technology, the Eye turns on the cd player.  She doesn't look behind her and thinks it's her husband.  Flashing electricity and all. Now this raises some questions of, you'll allow the term, logic.  Would it not make sense that an eye from outer space might smell a little bit, well, peculiar?  Gamey?  Or does Morton not have very good grooming habits in the first place? Jane's flirty, and the tentacle rubbing on her neck is a big turn-on.  The scene goes on.  And on.  And on.  It's amazing that a sixty-seven minute movie can drag so. 

This scene is supposed to build incredible suspense.  Instead, I was wondering if everyone involved had simply run out of inventions. Everything that's wrong with The Killer Eye is wrong with this scene.  We see the eye far too clearly.  The scene is supposed to be suspenseful like the scene outside the school in Hitchcock's The Birds , but instead it's just for the birds.  We don't really know this character or what happens to her, we just want to find out what's going on with the Eye.

Morton walks in.  Don't turn around, Jane.  Jane does.  First she, then Morton, are zapped with green electricity. Taken over now, Morton picks Jane up, opens her robe, and takes off his coat and tie.  Morton watches while the Eye plays with Jane.   He accidentally knocks over a lamp, breaking the Eye's concentration.

Creepy Bill is continuing to try to blackmail Grady or not try to blackmail him.  He indicates that the dead body of the street hustler is a suspicious thing.  Mild understatement.  Grady is just about to smash a computer keyboard over Creepy Bill's head, but decides to let Bill continue speaking exposition.

Morton awakes out of his trance.  His pressing concern is for Grady's safety, not his own wife's, so he jumps up and runs out of the apartment.  This lets him again angle the glass doors so as to give us a nice healthy view of the studio lights.

Creepy Bill agrees to tell no one what has happened there.  OK.

The Eye goes to the lab and finds the boy's body.  Rita goes to look for the boy, who shows up alive and well with his eye intact.  But he's not himself. Predictably, Rita begins to flit with him.  He says "I stranger," Rita allows how when you get to know somebody, it goes bad.  The kid talks about the "...need to make more, forced to make more." Grady and Bill arrive with flashlights, and the boy collapses.  The eye is standing right there, big as Dallas, and Bill finally notices it.  Rita advances toward the Eye until Morton arrives with his flashlight. "This whole giant eyeball is a new one on me."

OK.  Let's review what's happened here.  They opened up a dimensional wall in reverse.  I feel their pain. So a dimensional wall has been opened and a monster Eye is roaming the building.  Call the police.  Call the National Guard.  Call the Ghostbusters.  Call NASA. Nope.  These dingbats are going to try to handle it themselves. Rita, very wisely, starts to walk out, but she's reminded of how she's an accessory since her inheritance money financed these "twisted experiments"; all are implicated.

The monster is a hermaphrodite and can reproduce asexually.  But maybe the male part of it was what came through.  Thus, it will be looking for females.  This makes Morton speculate, however briefly, about Jane's safety.   She's back at the apartment and should be ok. The eye has the limitations of a human eye.  The heat generated by bright lights can dry it out.  So it could die if it goes without brain matter for long enough and and is exposed to bright light.

The stoners are watching Creepazoids and talking about how they'd kick any monster's ass if it should show up in their apartment. The Eye neds active brain cells.  Why it's in the stoner's apartment isn't explained- a lite snack? It hovers over Tom, who offers it drugs, and then zaps him.  Joe comes out of the bathroom and finds his buddy possessed and saying "Need females, need more." Tom goes off in search of Rita.

Bill asks for guns; Grady offers flashlights.  Grady tells Joe to go watch Jane.  Entering the apartment, he opens and closes the glass doors, giving us two opportunities to see the big studio lights.  Joe approaches Jane and she wakes up; she doesn't know that he's been Taken Over by the force from the eighth dimension. Joe brings Jane some water and tells her to roll over.  He massages her shoulder.  She looks at him and sees him minus his left eyeball, dead as can be.  Tom and company arrive and the bright lights cause the Eye to beat a hasty exit. We all stick together, we'll be all right.  We've got the advantage.  We'll keep our eyes open and the lights on........ The lights go out.

They all go to the lab, which seems to be illuminated by very intense moonlight.  The eye zaps Grady and has him in its power but it's once again thwarted. Grady produces a cross dimensional time bomb.  No home should be without one.  It resembles a light meter, and he will use himself as bait.  It will destroy five or six square blocks, but that's an inconvenience.

Grady and Rita talk, and she reveals herself to be a more sympathetic character than we had seen earlier.  She asks Grady for a divorce.  He plants a serious liplock on her, and then comes a surprise. "The eye asked me for help, and it's going to help me." This puts Rita in the same position as Beverly Garland in It Conquered the World.  She's watching the emergence of a new power into the world, and she doesn't appreciate it.  Or as Pat Delaney said so eloquently when playing Anne in the remake of that film, "Zontar, Zontar, Zontar!  That's all I ever hear!  You can't even get a decent meal in this house."

Oh, and the bomb.  It's a stopwatch.

So now all the untidy threads of the story can get clipped and straightened out.  The Eye zaps Tom, then Creepy Bill.  Two comic relief characters killed off within seconds of each other.  Maybe we were too harsh in our first evaluation of this thing from the Eighth Dimension.

Finally the electricity is restored and Rita turns the lights on, leaving the eye with a choice of death or returning to its own dimension.  It goes back, and Grady goes with it. There are flashes of light and images of a pyramid with eyes around it.  Finally, the monster is gone.  And Grady has boldly gone where no man has gone before.

But is the menace passed?  Rita and Jane are busy setting up the sequel.  Pregnant!  By a giant Eye!

The movie, without closing titles, runs just a little over one hour.  But even at that it seems stretched and forced. The people who made this have done better.  Director Richard Chasen is making his directing debut here, after having been sound effects editor for Dim Sum some fourteen years before helming The Killer Eye. The writers are another story.  Benjamin Carr has several credits, including working on at least one entry in the Puppet Master series.  Rolfe Kanefsky has written several screenplays, including There's Nothing Out There, which had fun with the conventions of the horror genre long before the Scream trilogy began development.

The big problem with The Killer Eye is that there's nothing original in the story or the telling.  The good cast has too little to do. On a five scale, Pops gives The Killer Eye one bottle of Visine. If you want to be frightened by a giant eye, check out The Crawling Eye.


Take your eyeballs elsewhere.

- April 9, 2000