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Eyes of a Stranger (1981)


Eyes of a Stranger poster
84 minutes
MPAA Rating
Cast and Crew
Production Company

Ken Wiederhorn’s Eyes of a Stranger is a calculated rehashing of moments from better movies, strung together by the thinnest of plots. It’s such a waste of time that reading about it (and, to my chagrin, writing about it) is a fairly worthless pursuit. If you have the time on your hands and nothing better to do, then please continue through the review. Otherwise, everything you need to know is in that first sentence.

A psychopath is raping and murdering women in Miami, Florida. Jane Harris (Lauren Tewes), a local television anchorwoman, believes her portly neighbor Stanley (John Di Santi) may be the killer. Jane becomes obsessed with the idea, first breaking into Stanley’s apartment for evidence and later taunting him over the phone. Unfortunately for Jane and her blind, deaf, and mute sister Tracy (Jennifer Jason Leigh, in her film debut), Stanley is the killer. The stage is set for a confrontation where … blah blah blah. It’s a slasher movie. You know what happens.

There might be a good drinking game in Eyes of a Stranger. Every time someone spots a plot point, sequence, or general theme lifted from another film, everyone else has to take a drink. I guarantee your party will be plastered by the end of the film. From the synopsis alone, you can probably glean the “influence” of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954, obsessive voyeur as detective) and Terence Young’s Wait Until Dark (1967, killer torments a blind woman). If you have the misfortune of actually watching the film, you’ll also recognize bits from He Knows You’re Alone (1980), Black Christmas (1974), When a Stranger Calls (1979), Maniac (1980), and John Carpenter’s Someone’s Watching Me! (1978, itself a pastiche on Rear Window). If you want to go way back, you can see traces of Robert Siodmak’s 1945 thriller The Spiral Staircase in the sequence when Tracy’s senses kick back in during a violent struggle.

I will admit, grudgingly, that there are some good moments in the film. The recent Warner Bros. DVD release of the film is uncut, so we get to see all the gore effects (by makeup guru Tom Savini) that were snipped out so it could get an R rating in 1981. These include a severed head, a slit throat, and a brutal stabbing. Unfortunately, Savini's big moment – the head in the fish tank – isn’t terribly original. The same thing happens in He Knows You’re Alone, which featured special effects by Savini’s buddy Taso N. Stavrakis. The similarity of the two scenes overshadows the fact that the head in Eyes of a Stranger is vastly superior to the one in He Knows.

Director Ken Wiederhorn also manages one technically well-executed sequence early in the film, or at least he appears to. The killer is following a woman on her way home from work. His shoes make a distinctive “clop” as they hit the pavement. We follow the killer (clop), then the woman, then the killer (clop), then the woman, and back and forth. The woman realizes she’s being followed and grows anxious, the perfect set-up for suspense. It should be suspenseful – the whole scene is a virtual repeat of one from Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People (and, as such, much of my description of it is taken from my review of that film). Wiederhorn should be ashamed.

Eyes of a Stranger isn’t just crap – it’s mercenary crap, designed to pull in suckers by stealing from the superior work of others and passing it off as its own. As such, it is a repugnant film without merit. Unless you’re really keen on that drinking game I devised, avoid this movie.


Wiederhorn's underwater zombie Nazi epic Shock Waves is playing on television early in the film.


I don't agree, it was awesome

I don't agree, it was awesome and scary, very scary!

I loved this film. Of course,

I loved this film. Of course, I realize that about 50% of being pretentious lies in attacking things for lacking originality. This whole notion is patently absurd, of course. Life itself consists of the same elements and the same cycles being repeated again and again. I don't know why film should automatically be any different. You mock this movie for rehashing elements from other movies, and I could accept that as a mild criticism. But to refer to it with the type of scorn you display is unwarranted.

Originality is nice, but it is only one consideration. You want to do a story about a serial killer terrorizing women? There are certain things that will most likely be present, in one form or another. You want to do it in such a way that anyone actually likes the movie? That nearly guarantees that those familiar elements will be present.

In truth, the execution is what matters. This film is quite effective. Sure, it might have easily have been a little better. But to refer to people who like it as 'suckers' is a very revealing statement on your part. You are a pretentious fool. I find it bizarre that so many people are so utterly degraded that they will allow someone like yourself to exert any influence over them.

I don't really know how much

I don't really know how much influence I exert over anyone. I post my thoughts, people take them as they will.

As for the originality vs. execution, I agree that if a film is well-executed, originality is less of a concern. And certainly, if the film was well-executed, I wouldn't have cared so much about the mercenary lack of creativity and intelligence apparent throughout.

If you dig the film, that's your own thing, and I'm sorry that my own, ah, vitriol offended you.

"He went for a little walk! You should have seen his face!"

I agree with Nate.  The film

I agree with Nate.  The film was totally boring and utterly by the numbers.  The acting was terrible (even Leigh was bad) and the gore was just disgusting and NOT scary.  I didn't notice the ripoffs from other movies (I was too bored) but Nate is right.  This is one of the few times that I agree with critics on a horror film. I remember Siskel and Ebert REALLY tearing into this one.  They said it was well-directed but utter trash.

Yes it's crap, your review is

Yes it's crap, your review is right.......and I loved it, it was soooo much fun!!!