Written by Elbert Van Strien, Paulo van Vliet
Directed by Elbert van Strien
The Dutch film Two Eyes Staring from director Elbert Van Strien explores the depths and power of a child’s imagination against the backdrop of a fairly engaging ghost story. The film also reminds us of what it was like to be enveloped in the world of a child, where creativity battles against boredom and adults can sometime seem villainous and neglectful.
Lisa (Isabelle Stokkel) is the eccentric daughter of Paul (Barry Atsma) and Christine (Hadewych Minis) – Dad is a loving, child-like factory worker; Mom is an aspiring artist more concerned with career than parenting – who have just relocated to Christine’s childhood home after the death of her mother. As the family begins to settle and Christine lands a high profile design job, Lisa begins to see Karen (Charlotte Arnoldy), a young dead girl lurking in the cellar, who, when she’s not scaring her senseless, guides Lisa in hopes of uncovering the reason for her death.
Yes, it’s a typical slow burn setup and the majority of the film plays out in the same fashion most atmospheric ghost stories usually do, but the hidden family history the story allows Lisa to uncover elevates Two Eyes to new territory. After finding a number of disturbing entries in her mother’s hidden childhood diary, Lisa learns that Karen’s ghost is actually Christine’s twin sister – a sister that Christine has never talked about. Growing up, the two sisters were of the same soul and did everything together, resulting in Christine’s obsession with killing her twin to gain independence.
Now that Christine has a daughter, that independence is tested again and threatens to undermine her budding art career. Lisa begins to fear her mother and her past, while Christine’s husband Paul also grows suspicious and starts to believe what Lisa is experiencing might actually be true.
Karen’s limbo logic dictates that the only path to redemption involves killing Christine so both sisters can be together once again. The momentum begins to pick up after this initial setup, but the tension is never ramped up to a level worthy of some of the twist endings and mysteries of superior ghost stories like Dark Water, a film that greatly influences Two Eyes Staring, or The Devil’s Backbone.
The final sequence of the film forces you to look at what came before in a completely new light, but once you’ve already spent an hour and a half in the dark, the ending doesn’t feel cathartic enough or justified – even if it is a little creepy.
3 out of 5