Eyes of Edward James, The (Short, 2006)
Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Shahla Kareen-Palmer, Tal Zimerman, Richard Underhill, Robert C. Fidler
Directed by Rodrigo Gudino
While I was watching the debut feature from Rue Morgue Magazine President and former Editor in Chief Rodrigo Gudino, my wife was putting some clothes away, moving around the room and unable to see what was going on. She commented at one point that the film would make for a really solid radio drama, as so much of it is told through voiceover, and at one point she actually stopped what she was doing and commented "sounds freaky".
That may not mean a lot to you, but you don’t know my wife; to get her to comment on how scary a film may or may not be just by hearing it takes some skills, and with his debut film Gudino proves that, though he’s not wielding them to their fullest potential yet, he sure as hell knows where his directorial talents are stored.
"The Eyes of Edward James" is told entirely through the perspective of a psychiatrist’s patient, Edward, who is under hypnosis in order to remember the details of the night his wife was killed. The bulk of the dialogue in the film is between patient and doctor, offscreen, as we watch Edward go through the night’s events, leading up to a very disturbing discovery in the attic.
While at first it seems like all those years of writing about and criticizing horror films may have had no effect on Rodrigo’s storytelling skills, in truth they’ve made his eye that much sharper for what works and what doesn’t, allowing him to lull viewers into believing they know what’s going on until the final moments of the film. The tale is swift and engaging, with solid performances by all the leads (though they’re not really onscreen for very long, save the wife), and the way in which it’s told visually is very unique as well.
In his talks about the film, Gudino has said many times that it's only serving as a way to flex his directorial muscles, and the scope confirms that. With primarily one location, shot over the course of two days with a small crew and most of the dialogue done through voiceover, "Eyes" is a great starter film with hints at a director with lots of potential to make some truly unique horror films in the coming years. He knows his own boundaries well enough to not jump into the filmmaking pool head first, and that is to be commended.
You’ll notice this review is much shorter than my usual output, but that’s for your benefit. Gudino shows in 15 minutes that he’s got what it takes to make a story do what he wants and has crafted a short but powerful freshman film that borrows elements from other suspense classics while still retaining uniqueness that is far too rare in our genre.
"The Eyes of Edward James" has already done well for itself, gaining the acceptance of the esteemed Toronto International Film Festival as part of its Short Cuts Canada program, after which Gudino plans to take it on the road to numerous festivals. So, if you’re lucky, you may get a chance to catch it before he starts work on his next short. From there he plans on heading to his first feature, and if his abilities and willingness to try new things only expands from "Eyes", we’re in for some good stuff in the coming years.
4 1/2 out of 5
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