Eyes Without a Face (1960)
Editor's Note: Part of my run through the Top 50 Horror Films on Letterboxd
Beauty is only skin deep, so says "Eyes Without a Face," a horror film that plays like an Edgar Allen Poe poem. Your mileage will vary on whether that's a bug or a feature. For my money, it's a bit of both.
The story is a bit simple: a doctor (literally) kidnaps young women to graft their faces onto the head of his daughter (literally), whose face is now grotesque after a car accident. A French film tackling the notion of beauty is nothing new, nor is this uncharted territory in a horror movie. Hell, just a few years later we're going to see "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" take a much less arthouse approach to this subject matter.
There were truly horrific moments in "Face," as director Georges Franju didn't shy away from the gore necessary to the plot but this is an atmospheric horror film. There are no jumps and no scares to be found in this French film. The black and white picture moves at a methodical pace, features a pair of detectives that are completely unnecessary to the plot and is more focused on mood than fear.
For some fans that will work. I'm looking for something a little more tantalizing when I put a horror film on — or at least something with a little more substance. If you're not going to give me scares, at least give me more plot. "Face" does neither, unfortunately. I love atmosphere, don't get me wrong, and this film delivers on that front; but only on that front.
"Eyes Without a Face" will please fans looking for a poem-turned-horror-film, but if you're looking for more than that you're likely to be disappointed. Horror is a diverse genre, and this French entry is an excellent example of it.
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