Film Review: Five Across the Eyes
Five Across the Eyes
Director Greg Swinson and Ryan Thiessen (2006)
I unwrapped a fake Jewish Christmas present from my brother Nathan to discover a DVD of BOCA, Brazil’s answer to the American gangster film. ‘Thanks’ I probably said. Then I felt something else, something hidden inside the torn remains of wrapping paper, something dangerous, something flat, something terrible, I tapped the wrapping and a second DVD fell out onto the floor. The title read FIVE ACROSS THE EYES (in block capitals) with the tagline A ROAD TRIP TO HELL. The rest of the cover involved a bunch of official selection logos and two blood covered arms reaching out of a car window. ‘I’m giving you that on the condition you review it’ my brother declared, foaming at the mouth, ‘it’s brilliant and awful’.
While I can’t say I’m a big fan of gifts with pre-attached conditions of ownership, I’ve never been one to shy away from a potentially painful film reviewing experience, so for the first time in a while I find myself delving into Nathan McKinstrie’s Vault of Horror.
Plot summary to follow………………but first, you dear none existent reader, require some priming.
Picture yourself building a small chicken coop, nothing too small mind, today’s society sees the experience of over-crowding as unacceptable for animals bred purely to be killed, cooked, packaged and eaten (but not so called reality tv. stars). Say big enough for a dozen or so chickens to happily peck about in. Now imagine everything’s painted metallic grey and a swivel chair’s been placed in the middle. Picture yourself on that swivel chair. Now imagine some friends have thrown a dozen or so more chickens inside, don’t worry, they’ll be taken out again. Look, now those same friends are intermittently throwing feed through the bars. (Actually when I think about it, if like me you don’t have any friends you’ll probably find enemies are just as willing to help) Ok, surrounded by clucking chickens and intermittent handfuls of feed flying past your face, you’ve only one more task to complete the effect. Picture yourself Spinning that swivel chair like you’ve never spun a swivel chair before.
You are now primed for the experience that is Five Across the Eyes
Everybody Dance Now! Dan Dan Dunna Dan Dan Dunna Everybody Plot Summary Now………….
There’s a collection of hills collectively named The Eyes. Crossing (thus accounting for the presence of the word Across in the title) The Eyes is one of those big land rover car things that rich old people used to tailgate my tiny Peugeot 106 with. The word ‘Five’ believe it or not refers to five High School (I think) girls who have gotten a bit lost. The five have names but after watching the film twice I can only remember one, Melanie and I have no idea which one Melanie is. I could do the professional thing and look up the characters names, maybe the background of the actors as well, but I won’t, not just because I can’t be bothered (though that is the case) but because I think it’s impressive, in a ‘hit yourself with a hammer’ sort of way, that a film can have so many characters shout each other’s names throughout its entirety and still leave me clueless as to who’s who.
Back to the plot, so five possibly high school girls are lost on some hills, through a brief conversation five distinct personalities are revealed; there’s a nice dumb one who doesn’t like bad language, a crazy dumb one who says crazy things, a dumb dumb one who like most dumb dumb people considers Jesus a helpful friend, a hip-hop looking dumb one who’s got some sass and the driver………….who is also dumb. After some indecipherable chatting/clucking, the five stop off at what Americans would call a ‘gas station’. Hilarity ensues when the nice dumb one goes to the toilet and returns to find the other four edge the car forwards whenever she tries to get back in, pointing and laughing at her sad failed attempts for warmth, shelter and acceptance. Things end badly though; they take the joke/unnecessary bullying too far and accidently knock into another car, faced with the moral quandary of driving away or staying and possibly forking out money for damages, the five show moral fortitude by slowly reversing away, then driving off.
Sadly the driver of the car they knocked into doesn’t care for hit and runs and gives chase. The result is a car chase containing many a close-up of probably High School girls looking over their shoulders which eventually ends when the five mistakenly turn into a dead end. The driver of the car they hit is, and I want to be as accurate as possible here, absolute bat-shit crazy (played by Veronica Garcia I’ll explain why I’ve named her later). Walking with a slight limp she shuffles out the car carrying a shotgun to make the five apologise for hitting her car. By apologise I mean strip off (though interestingly there isn’t any actual nudity which is remarkable restraint), put their clothes in a pile and then have one of them urinate on their clothes. I guess these days that counts as an apology of sorts.
Satisfied the girls have had enough, or maybe just because she’s crazy, the shogun toting madwoman leaves. Some clucking later (and the beginning of a recurring theme where the hip hop looking dumb one attaches plasters to her face) the girls drive past crazy women again, who gives chase again, because she’s crazy, or has a hankering for some more urine. This time she ends up with poo, literally, one of the girls takes a dump in her hand and throws it at crazy woman’s pursuing car, which is definitely a technique I’d pay to see tried against the likes of Vorhees and Myers. Not sure if crazy women felt poo was an adequate replacement for urine, or her obstructed vision of the road hampered things but she gave up the chase. Leaving the five girls free………………….until the next time.
And there is a next time, and then a time after that, and then a time after that. Basically the rest of the film is the group being pursued by crazy woman while everything gets more and more violent. At one point the group are forced to flee the car and one of them is tortured. At another one of them is kidnapped and the rest of the girls try and find her only to discover crazy woman’s car has two dead bodies inside instead of their friend. Eventually there’s a final bloody showdown, a fantastically glib final line from one of the characters and the worst, most unsuitable end credit music I’ve ever heard.
Plot summary finishes.
Horror films are the marmite of the film world. All the world’s peoples can be divided into two clear camps, those that like gory horror films and those that hate them. Alternatively the two camps could be named sick wannabe psychos and weedy little insert negative word for female genitalia here. I’ve tended to fall into the latter, partly because I’m a terrible person, but also because Oldboy changed my life and showed me that a bit of brutal, sadistic violence can be a powerful device within a well told story. That isn’t to say violence hasn’t also been used incredibly cheaply to extend one good idea into a terrible franchise (Saw et al)
Depending on which camp you fall into you either finished that poorly written plot summary thinking ‘Gee, this is a film I’d like to get my groove on to’ or ‘Golly, that sounds a worse watch than that programme about a squirrel slowly suffocating in a jar’ (still a better watch than The Only Way Is Essex Live). Happily for both camps, and as my good brother Nathan informed me when he gave the DVD, Five Across the Eyes is both.
It’s as awful as a squirrel slowly suffocating because of many things; some of the acting is Troll 2 awful, the camera barely leaves the car but shots have still been edited in a way that’s jarring and often kills momentum, the whole things was shot at night with what I assume was a high ‘GAIN’ setting, leaving a grainy and detaching effect, the blood effects are not only inconsistent but at times look like a lazy water colour painting and finally, considering the film had a composer, some of the background music is awful and generic and so unsuitable you wonder if it isn’t a piss take.
Butttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt, Five Across the Eyes is also sort of brilliant. No doubt hampered on all sides by budget restrictions it still manages some tense, interesting moments. A lot of the violence is implied rather than explicitly shown, which is always more effective and skilful, as a story it just about hits the right pacing and it makes enough effort to tell a proper story to show up a lot of the higher budget stuff Lionsgate have released in the last few years. My favourite things about Five across the Eyes though are the characters.
Hang on Sam, you called the five girls dumb earlier and just said some of their acting is Troll 2 awful what were you just saying that for effect?
No, they’re dumb and the acting is bad, but the characters are a nice distance away from horror film dumb.
I will, shut up.
If you watch horror films, how many times have you seen the following; a nice or relatively moralistic person, usually female, is part of a group of friends that are mostly immoral and sarcastic. This group is then pursued by a relentless, vicious killer who’s male and makes a point of offing the most ‘immoral’ female character first.
In Five Across the Eyes the group are just a group, there’s no leader, no clearly good and no clearly bad one. Despite constantly talking over each other, shouting lines at each other and generally doing an astoundingly accurate impression of clucking chickens, the girls have a genuinely interesting group dynamic. It’s actually fun watching them react to the situation and how it effects them. It’s also unpredictable, there’s no moral compass, no ‘slut’ who’s going to have sex and die, and probably most importantly, no clever one who makes knowing remarks about the horror film genre and in jokes only the audience is meant to get. They’re normal, just a young, slightly dumb group who have gotten into a situation way over their heads. Sadly that’s rare in horror, so from that standpoint Five Across the Eyes makes a refreshing change.
Now we come to my favourite thing about Five Across the Eyes, the bat shit crazy lady. At no point are we given even the merest hint of character motivation and that is stunningly effective. It’s refreshing to see a killer who isn’t supernatural, or misogynistic, or shunned by society, or in some skewed way justified. In fact the more you tend to know about a killer, the less scary they become, so knowing nothing about crazy lady except that she’s crazy is pretty awesome, we don’t even get a name for none existent Christ’s sake. More importantly, this is deliberate, the two bodies in the car could be anyone, the killers family, some previous victims, there’s no explanation you just know they’re there, it’s up to you to make the backstory, that’s good and (sadly) brave story telling.
The killer’s played by Veronica Garcia.
I’ve chosen to forego laziness and look up her name because Ms Garcia gives an excellent performance, a performance pitched somewhere between completely insane and wacky enough to be at the races. Like all good performances, it’s the little things that make it. There’s a scene early on where she points a shotgun at the girls and accidently empties one of the shells, she has to go back and get the shell to reload it. In the wrong hands a moment like this would be slapstick or superficial, instead Ms Garcia manages to keep it tense. Good for her.
Five Across the Eyes isn’t a good film, I’ve watched it/inflicted it upon three people and two of the three initially thought I was showing them a porn film so low is the budget quality, but nor is it really a bad one. If it had a massive budget and still looked the way it did, it would be terrible instead it is what it is; a cheap film, cleverly made for a niche market of horror fans. In terms of that market it’s well written, fairly well produced and punches way above its weight. I appreciate effort and while Five Across the Eyes is in no way a film everyone will be able to sit through, or I’d really recommend to anyone, it’s ok, in that hit yourself with a hammer sort of way.
Written by Sam ‘genuinely scared HFP’s first feature will make troll 2 look like Troll Hunters’ McKinstrie
Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP
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