Eyes of a Stranger (1981)

eyes of a stranger

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: News reporter stalks killer.

Jane Harris (Lauren Tewes) is a Miami TV-news reporter who takes a special interest in a local story involving a serial rapist/killer in the area since her younger sister Tracy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) was attacked years earlier that left her without the ability to see, hear, or speak. She starts to suspect that the killer may actually be her neighbor (John DiSanti) who lives in an apartment across the courtyard from hers. She begins sneaking into his apartment when he is away in order to collect evidence unaware that the man has already set his sights on Tracy.

The story was originally conceived as a thriller and the Rear Window-like element adds some interest, but the tension is ruined when it takes out the mystery angle completely by making it quite clear early on who the killer is. The silly gory effects by Tom Savini aren’t up to his usual standard and pretty sparse. The scene where a victim’s head is chopped off his body like a cork popping out of a wine bottle with only one swing of a meat clever looks quite fake. The idea that a killer would    be able to sneak up behind a victim without them ever knowing, which is a common trait in ‘80s slasher films, is also hard to believe as I think most anyone can sense when someone is right behind them without actually having to see them.

Tewes, who is better known for playing Julie McCoy on the long running TV-series ‘The Love Boat’ does an okay job even though she’s never starred in a film since. Leigh, whose first major film role this was, also does well despite the extreme limitations of her part. The only issue that I had with the casting is with the children who were hired to play the women when they were younger during the flashback sequences. Both girls look nothing like their adult counterpart and in the case of Amy Krug who plays Tewes as child she doesn’t even have her same color of eyes.

The motivations of the characters are another issue. In the case of the killer he discards the body of one of his victims along beach, but then gets his car stuck in the sand. A man who was making out with his girlfriend nearby offers to help, but instead of accepting it he kills him, which makes little sense. Some may argue that he stabbed them because he didn’t want to be identified later, but if that was the case then why not at least accept their assistance and then kill them as someone at some point was going to have to offer him a hand and it’s never made clear how eventually he manages to get his car out.

The Tewes character acts equally stupid including when she makes anonymous phone calls to the killer without attempting to disguise her voice even though she is this famous news lady heard all over the city.  She also busily breaks into the bad guy’s apartment twice looking for evidence, but then doesn’t bother to take his blood soaked shirt that she sees him stuff in a parking lot trash can, which could’ve easily connected him to his last victim.

Spoiler Alert!

The film manages to be marginally gripping despite some agonizingly prolonged sequences involving watching the victims slowly become aware that they are being stalked before predictably and routinely getting offed. The segment at the end though where Leigh’s character ‘miraculously’ regains her sight and speech while she’s being attacked after losing it during her previous encounter with a rapist is pure corn and something that happens only in movieland and nowhere else.

End of Spoiler Alert!

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: March 27, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 25Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ken Weiderhorn

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube 

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