Director – Irvin Kershner
Cast – Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif, Rene Auberjonois, Raul Julia, Frank Adonis, Lisa Taylor, Darlanne Fluegel, Rose Gregorio
Release Year – 1978
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I was iffy on this one at first. My love for late 70s horror films has never subsided, but when I see Hollywood names I think of how many times I’ve been let down by a good story with OK execution that gets bogged down by Hollywood nonsense, and sadly this is a film that suffered from such atrocities and could not live up to its full potential.
Eyes of Laura Mars stars Faye Dunaway(Chinatown, Network) as Laura Mars, a prominent New York City fashion photographer. One night she has a vision of someone close to her being killed in violent fashion, via a heavily thrusted ice pick to the eye. Soon enough, the next day she learns not only that the person in her vision as killed, but in the same fashion as she saw in her vision. The authorities do not believe her at first, but as she continues to have true visions of more and more of her associates being killed everyone realizes they have a serious problem. By the time Laura realizes someone is going to be killed it is too late for anyone to do anything about it, which is the same case when the killer makes her his next target.
With this film’s director and original screenwriter, the only way this could turn out a less-than-incredible watch is for Hollywood to step in and tone it down…and that is exactly what happened. Infamous horror legend John Carpenter(Halloween, The Fog, The Thing) wrote the original screenplay for this flick, titled “Eyes” at the time, which was later revised by writer David Zelag Goodman, as well as numerous other “unaccredited” writers. To make matters even sadder, this film comes to us directed by the respected Irvin Kirshner, who after this film gave us Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Robocop 2. So how is it that a legendary filmmaker’s story paired with a legendary filmmaker’s direction turns out to be only a so-so watch? Well…you add in a slew of Hollywood writers to dumb it down of course.
Story-wise the overall plot is just another who-dun-it, but anyone with writing talent can turn that into an awesome watch, much like the Italian “giallo” films that graced the 70s. While this film started off very well as far as the story goes, eventually it succumbed to exactly what I expected it to before even hitting the “Start” button…a ridiculous and unnecessary romance element. I figured “it will only make sense to make Laura Mars fall for the lead Detective(Tommy Lee Jones), but I really did not expect the love element to be so cliché and poorly written. I firmly believe that even the most cliché ideas can be turned positive via some creativity, but we get none of that with the love clichés in this flick, they only ruin the pacing as well as the focus of the story. Basically, this is an 85 minute horror film that winds up a 104 minute film that drags at times thanks to unnecessary scenes, of which 90 percent of them had nothing to do with the horror or the central feel and plot of the film.
Direction-wise Mr. Kirshner did a swell job and delivered whatever “goods” he could and in excellent fashion. The kill scenes were pretty sweet, and that is because we only see them through Laura’s cloudy visions, so that is a testament to his great direction. The visuals of the city and surrounding atmosphere is nice, and makes for a visually enjoyable watch as well. What REALLY surprised me about this flick’s execution though is the musical score, which was truly haunting during the high tension scenes. I mentioned earlier that this flick does have some slight pacing issues, but those really have more to do with the story than the direction.
Overall, this is a so-so watch that thanks to the duo of John Carpenter and Irvin Kirshner had much potential, but turned out to be nothing spectacular thanks to the usual Hollywood nonsense we get in such flicks. I would wait for a boring night if you choose to view this one.