Eyes Without a Face

Starting off strong with a visceral and gruesome horror film from 1960’s France. This movie features some amazing effects, and a macabre subject to create a haunting film that’s not easily shaken.

Based on a novel of the same name by Jean Redon, the film follows a plastic surgeon who goes to extreme lengths to perfect a face transplant for his daughter after she is horribly disfigured in a car accident.

The movie has a gruesome subject that I’m sure will turn potential viewers off. It turned. a lot of people off back in 1960 when it was released. It was heavily censored and altered from its source material in order to fit in with the European censors. In my opinion the changes only improved the film and turned it from a potentially nasty piece of mad scientist horror into a haunting and cerebral symphony.

One charge they made was to reduce the gore in the film. This was the best choice they could have made. The minimal blood and gore elevate the film from a side show attraction and force us to look at the characters and the broken psyches on display. The scientist is driven to extremes by his own guilt and remorse. The daughter is at the lowest point possible by her predicament. The assistant is compelled to help with these horrendous acts because of a sense of loyalty. All these conflicting motivations create a weblike narrative that makes the whole film so much more than the sum of its parts.

The daughter is forced to wear a lifelike mask the perfectly reflects her original face. This face is deeply unsettling, but I couldn’t look away. It resides right within the uncanny valley. It is so lifelike yet so unreal that it left me feeling uneasy every time she was on screen. The image of real unblinking eyes staring out of an almost real face is going to haunt me. I’ve never seen the uncanny Vally used like this before. It’s awesome.

There is one scene of gore, but it is shot from a removed medium shot. There are no gratuitous close ups that rub our noses in the blood. This removed perspective makes the scene even more unsettling and horrific as the superb make up effects are used to subtle and stomach turning effect.

The one element that leaves something to be desired is the ending. There is a climactic confrontation and a comeuppance, but it doesn’t exactly feel earned. I wish that more groundwork was laid to make this conclusion hit harder. That said every minute leading up to the finale really worked for me. I would definitely watch this one again.

I recommend it for anyone looking for a horror film that’s a little off the beaten path. It’s eerie and creepy and its implications are horrifying. I loved it. It is my cup of tea. A

Okay spoilers!

So the movie follows a renowned scientist who is working to replace his daughter’s face after he destroys it in a car accident. He is overcome with guilt, but he remains object and clinical throughout. He is no mad scientist. I love that he remains outwardly emotionally detached while seething on the inside.

He takes to kidnapping girls who look like his daughter and removing their faces and attempting to surgically apply them to his daughter’s face. He has his daughter declared dead and locks her up in their massive French estate.

She wanders through the estate like a ghost looking for a mirror to inspect the damage done. She longs to see her fiancé who believes she’s dead. She feels alone and lost, and those eyes staring out of that white placid mask is so creepy. I loved it.

The big set piece of gore comes in the middle of the film where we see him remove a girls face. The prosthetics used are absolutely amazing. It’s done subtly and without fanfare. He just slides his scalpel under her skin and uses forceps to remove the skin. It’s a pretty obvious and basic effect, but it is deeply disturbing to watch. Because the film keeps us in a subjective point of view we just have to watch as this surgery takes place and the horror overtakes us. It’s perfect.

He applies the newly procured face to his daughter, but the new face doesn’t take. It deteriorates and he has to do it again. He kidnaps a new girl, but this girl is in trouble with the police and they use her to figure out what’s going on. It doesn’t end in a big climactic set piece or a shoot out or even in burning inferno like so many horror films. It’s a very quiet and whimpering ending, that I just didn’t like. Maybe on second viewing it will play better for me, but this one didn’t play.

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