I’ve often said that if I have to watch another movie with five teenagers in a car getting lost on a backwoods road, I’ll throw myself through the TV screen. Of course, I never follow through on this threat. I keep watching and I keep finding myself disappointed by the same dull formulaic crap, recycled ad infinitum.
I was steeled for the worst and then some when I stuck Five Across The Eyes into my DVD player. Not only did the plot involve five girls in a car getting lost on a backwoods road, but it also looked like it was shot on somebody’s mobile phone. I nearly pressed stop in the first five minutes.
Thank God I was in an uncharacteristically patient mood then or I’d’ve missed out on one of the rawest, most original and exciting horror films of the last few years.
Perhaps 10 – 20 years ago, we wouldn’t’ve been able to watch Five Across The Eyes. It would’ve been a short film made by the directors (first timers Greg Swinson and Ryan Thiessen) and sent to the studio as a show tape. The studio would then have given them money to make a ‘proper’ film. Of course, in this day and age when shooting and editing on digital is so affordable and, Hell, even distributing and marketing a film is easier than iit was, we actually get to see this home-made mini-masterpiece.
The phrase “no budget” gets bandied around a lot but I honestly can’t see where anything beyond gas money and a couple of bucks for coffee could’ve been spent on this. The action takes place in real time and almost entirely within the confines of a couple of cars, in the dark, as the aforementioned teenage girls find themselves pursued by a maniac woman.
Weirdly, this total lack of funds helps to emphasise the genuine, raw talent of the filmmakers as they find increasingly inventive ways to keep the action both scary and riveting. The editing is frenetic but never annoying. The camerawork is spasmodic and lighting is limited but this creates an atmosphere of dread and darkness that’s genuinely claustrophobic. I had the creeps big time. In fact, I took the rubbish out just after watching this and found myself watching the bushes in fear, lest a white-shirted looney come running out at me with a shotgun. This is how terrifying the mood is.
The film, unlike many of its peers, doesn’t rely on grisly torture. There is an at times overwhelming brutality but it’s similar to that in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film’s sense of violence is pervasive. Even when none is occuring, it’s thick in the air. There’s almost constant screaming and crying and shouting. When the nastiness finally happens, it’s shocking – even though you see little onscreen grue. Again, a testament to the directors’s ability to make something from nothing.
It’s also nice to see violence that isn’t glamourised. I didn’t get the feeling that the directors were revelling in it, which is a refreshing change from the glossy torture porn that bigger names are pushing out with depressing regularity. Instead, it’s horrific and makes you uncomfortable. There’s a strong grasp of empathy within the script and somewhere, at the bottom of the savagery, it has a bruised and battered heart.
All of this is not to suggest Five Across The Eyes doesn’t have its flaws. The last ten minutes are a pretty wasteful addendum and it does take a little while to get used to the roughness but man, if this is what they can do with almost literally nothing, these two are going to be fucking DANGEROUS when they’re given a budget. One of the more promising horror debuts that I’ve seen for years. Watch this space and I’m convinced you’re in for a treat.