Sunday, 14 August 2016

See No Evil (1971) [Mini Review]

Director: Richard Fleischer
Screenplay: Brian Clemens
Cast: Mia Farrow (as Sarah); Dorothy Alison (as Betty Rexton); Robin Bailey (as George Rexton); Diane Grayson (as Sandy Rexton); Brian Rawlinson (as Baxter)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #18

See No Evil on paper is a potentially great pot boiler thriller. Sarah (Farrow) is a young woman who has lost her eyesight and is learning to cope with her new life with blindness while staying at her uncle's home in England. A sociopath venture up to the home and Fleischer does exactly what one would want from a premise like this. No overbearing music that spoils the moment or jump scares. Instead there's a slow and lingering sense of dread. Fleischer lets small details - glass on the kitchen tiles, a wrist chain on the floor - give the sense of something having gone wrong with the vulnerability of Sarah, having to use her hands to travel around, leaving the viewer with immediate fear for her. Punctured with a subplot about an old suitor Steve (Norman Eshley) trying to rekindle their romance, it actually helps build up the concern when finally the events that have taken place are shown in a matter-of-fact way, a camera pan to the left or the frame being pulled back revealing the horror of what's happened. The perfect way to make a thriller.

Sadly See No Evil while a technical gem for a thriller dwindles in interest after this. While the presentation is perfect, including its natural photography for rural English countryside and wasteland, the story doesn't build up well enough even for a simple pot boiler under ninety minutes. Briefly there's a concern that it's going to become anti-gypsy in attitude, which does turn out to just be a plot twist based on the characters' prejudices thankfully, but it doesn't help that the killer when they're revealed is merely a McGuffin than someone compelling visually or in performance. (Neither does it help that, to try to make them evil, they're established at the beginning by having them come out of a cinema with a double bill including "Rape Cult" in the matinee or having their feet on the seats in a pub. The later is just bad manners, and especially in seventies Britain let alone now, you couldn't get away with a film title like "Rape Cult" in English cinemas like old American grindhouses could.) The film seems far more interesting in equestrian content in fact that the thrills at points, obsessed with horses and riding them even if it leads to an escape by way of one. While its short length is perfect for a sharp, creepy narrative the plot needed more meat on its bone to make the ending better.


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