Starring: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Edith Scob
Director: Georges Franju
Running Time: 87 mins
Eyes Without A Face (Les yeux sans visage) is a French/Italian film about a brilliant surgeon who, after causing an accident that left his daughter disfigured, sets about getting her a new face, no matter how disturbing and gruesome a method he has to use.
If you’re looking for something that’s completely sick, disturbing and insanely eerie, but still brilliant and oddly enjoyable, look no further than Eyes Without A Face. With a consistently chilling atmosphere that gets under your skin, you’ll be glued to the screen while simultaneously covering your eyes in this thrillingly disturbing classic horror.
But before we get into that, I will admit that the first fifteen minutes of this film weren’t all that great. It’s a common misstep in the horror genre, and it crops up again here, as Eyes Without A Face struggles to really introduce and cement its creepy and on-edge atmosphere rapidly, instead spending a little too much time on backstory and character introductions that could have been done in about two minutes.
However, after that, everything is pretty brilliant. As soon as we get to the home of this surgeon, the tone becomes stunningly eerie, everything becomes so much more unpredictable, and the introduction of the surgeon’s daughter, a young woman who rarely speaks, but floats around the house in a ghostly manner, an image furthered by her unsettling white face mask, really makes it a chilling watch.
Throughout, the surgeon engages in some seriously disturbing and disgusting acts in his attempts to get a new face for his daughter, including one incredibly gruesome scene that lingers for ages, leaving me peeking through my fingers in one of the most uncomfortable few minutes I’ve had watching a film in a long time.
However, despite its extremely eerie and disturbing vibe, there’s something really beautiful about this film that makes it actually quite an enjoyable watch. I can’t say that I particularly liked watching this film, but a lot of that feeling comes from that central scene that had such an impact on me, but the presence of the both ghostly and angelic daughter character, coupled with the lack of use of sci-fi tropes as many horrors of the time would generally do, gives Eyes Without A Face an unsettling elegance that’s so unique that you just can’t take your eyes off the screen.
Overall, I was really impressed with this film. It’s not a wonderful, hugely entertaining horror, but its powerfully eerie vibe coupled with that uniquely unsettling yet beautiful atmosphere make it a special watch that, despite getting off to a slow start, becomes hugely enthralling to watch.