Eyes of a Stranger (1981)

Synopsis:

A TV newswoman (Lauren Tewes, TV’s The Love Boat) suspects that a man (John DiSanti, The Presidio) from her apartment building is a serial killer. Undeterred by the lack of evidence, the reporter begins taunting her neighbor with anonymous phone calls. What she doesn’t know is that the calls have placed her disabled sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Fast Times at Ridgemont High) in great danger.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“I know what you’re doing… and I know it’s you.”

Ah… the dying art of movie posters! What first attracted me to Eyes of a Stranger was its intriguing theatrical poster (it’s strange, but inviting). The poster made me curious enough and I’m glad I went for it. Lurid and schlocky, Eyes of a Stranger is essentially a patchwork of thriller clichés. Having said that, this low-budget slaher accomplished what it set out to do: create a tense and disturbing viewing experience.

Despite concerted efforts to evoke classic chillers like Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) and Wait Until Dark (1967), Eyes of a Stranger was a dud at the box office. Although nowhere near as good as the movies it tried to emulate, I thought this low-budget slasher was competently directed by former documentarian Ken Wiederhorn (Shock Waves), and the concept of the movie is undeniably interesting.

The film merges extremely well standard slasher tropes with still-relevant observations about the lasting effects of sexual abuse and violence against women. I did think that the movie came up short on the development of the killer. While the film goes to great lengths to explain the motivations of the heroine, we are left in the dark about the killer’s rationale. With that being said, Ron Kurz’s (Friday the 13th Part 2) script does a good job of showing the various degrees of psychological trauma.

Another noteworthy aspect of Eyes of a Stranger is its curious choice of actors. This is the first theatrical film of both Lauren Tewes and Jennifer Jason Leigh. They couldn’t have put together two more dissimilar actors in a movie if they had tried. Tewes is better known for the campy TV series The Love Boat, while Leigh has excelled at playing misfits in countless movies — it’s an odd pairing that works.

Finally, I have to give a shout-out to legendary make-up artist Tom Savini (Dawn of Dead and Creepshow) and his excellent work in the movie. Savini never really made the transition from low-budget productions to Hollywood blockbusters, but I would venture to say that this is precisely why he is so beloved by horror aficionados. Savini’s make-up effects in Eyes of a Stranger still look great forty years later.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

As I said before, the film’s theatrical poster (it captures the movie’s main themes to a tee) was the main reason I decided to watch the movie, and I’m glad I did. Eyes of a Stranger isn’t some hidden gem, but it is atmospheric and well-acted (Lauren Tewes is a surprisingly effective “Scream Queen”). It does have a few gruesome sequences, so I warn the squeamish: be ready to cover your eyes on a few occasions! In any event, this is a nice selection for Halloween movie night. Color, 85 minutes, Rated R.

11 responses to “Eyes of a Stranger (1981)

  1. Yeah, whatever happened to the art of the poster?!
    As for this one, I never saw it, but sounds like a fun Sunday afternoon movie. I thought Jennifer J.L’s first movie (after Fast Times) was The Hitchhiker. Boy, she’s been around a long time!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Years ago, I went to a Comic-Con convention, and I had a chance to talk with Roger Kastel, the man who designed the posters for Jaws and Empire Strikes Back. He made me realize that poster design is a true art form. Today’s posters are nothing but computer-screenshots. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, fantastic, getting to talk with Roger Kastel. I think posters have gone the same way as design and special effects in movies–down the toilet. There’s something to be said for practical effects. Remember Fantastic Voyage? So creative in their presentation, and it still holds up today, where all of that would just be green screen now.

        Liked by 2 people

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