Just when you thought that silly childhood fear of something alone in your bedroom had left, Alexis Bruchon comes along with his film The Eyes Below to shatter it all. A simple concept is carried out so effectively that you are left as astonished as you are spooked—a truly sensational film.
A man, Eugene, goes to bed. Everything is quiet and silent in the house. Just as he is about to fall asleep, something climbs on his legs, stomach and chest. He opens his eyes half asleep and discovers that the night will not be as peaceful as he thought.
The beauty of everything about The Eyes Below is just how simple it all is. We all have those fears of having something with us when we are in our most fragile state, asleep. Hell, we even know people who probably run up the stairs before bed as they turn off the last light in the house. It is a fear we can never really explain. We know there isn’t someone or something at the bottom of the stairs to chase us. We know something isn’t at the bottom of the bed, ready to grab our feet. Yet, the stupid fear remains.
For the majority of The Eyes Below, we are with the fantastic Vinicius Coelho as Eugene in his bed. Yes, we get up and roam around here and there, but for the most part, we see him in bed. It is quite a bold choice to do that. However, Bruchon has tricks up his sleeve to continually spook his lead and his audience. Namely, some remarkable shot choices. Eugene is in a normal-sized bedroom, yet Bruchon will have that bed look as if it is all alone in the darkness with terrifying amounts of space between Eugene and the safety of another room. At other times we will be so close with Eugene that we feel claustrophobic, squeezed in. Breaking the realms of reality and having these waking nightmares shown allows the film a lot of leeways.
Of course, it is all executed perfectly. We watch Eugene hold onto a bedsheet for dear life as the camera tilts around to show that he is now vertical, about to fall down into the darkness. We are left to continually guess not what is happening to our protagonist but where it is happening. Is it happening in real life, in that bed? Is he actually being tormented by a demon? Or is it all in his head? He is taking medication for something, after all. Have the pressures of his job get to him and when he is in his own subconscious, has he just begun to unravel? Wherever it is happening, it is utterly fascinating and riveting to watch.
Bruchon does all of this to show the mindset of Eugene at any given time. Couple this work with the lighting. We are always disorientated. We get a lot of POV shots as Bruchon tries to put us in his leads mental space. You are never comfortable; even when he is out of bed and writing his report, he will stretch on the chair towards the darkness and have us thinking maybe he will get grabbed. You are constantly filled with horrible what if’s throughout The Eyes Below that you are never exactly sure when or what will happen next. It also feels as if he has implemented a 1950s style to his film, if The Eyes Below was in black and white and had all modern technology removed from it, you really wouldn’t be able to tell which era it was from.
For a film with a seemingly simple premise, you wonder how it will stretch itself out to 70-odd minutes. It has a concept of a short. Yet Bruchon gets his film there without ever feeling as if he is padding for time. The Eyes Below tests you, and a word of warning needs to be uttered for those who suffer from waking nightmares and sleep paralysis as Bruchon keys in on those areas with stunning precision. Scenes that have Eugene unable to move, as if the heaviest of weights has afflicted his duvet, will strike a chord, and it is a testament to how effective the film is that you even have to give such a warning.
You really can’t help but be impressed by this film. It takes on nightmares better than most other films ever have. Alexis Bruchon carries on from his excellent debut feature, The Woman With Leopard Shoes, to impress us again with The Eyes Below, cementing himself as a filmmaker we have to keep an eye on.
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