Writer-director Alexis Bruchon makes a speciality of minimalist genre exercises – La Femme aux Chaussures Leopard (The Woman With Leopard Shoes) was film noir told mostly from below the ankles … and The Eyes Below is a horror movie that consists of one character suffering through a 77-minute disturbed night, literally wrestling with a nightmare. Lawyer Eugene (Viicius Coelho) is about to let his conscience overrule pragmatism and give evidence of corporate chicanery … the sort of thing that usually summons merciless hit men in movies, but here conjures up an oily, white-eyed spectre who creeps under his bed-covers and torments him.
Like La Femme, it sets limits and then sticks with them but thoroughly works out the space it inhabits – everything from the textures of the bedclothes to the precise, gnarly look of the creature’s hands is considered and controlled. Coelho is extraordinary, acting without dialogue but with a range of expressions of degrees of terror. Quite a few recent horror films, perhaps inspired by the documentary The Nightmare, have explored night terrors, and the eerily similar visions many have across countries and cultures of hatted figures – the inspiration for Freddy Krueger – intruding into bedrooms … Bruchon goes back to an earlier, more primal version of the myth, with his collaborator Pauline Morel as a literal night mare, the wiry hag known to sit on the chests of male sleepers and ride them to their deaths. Note how Bruchon (and Morel) do everything on this film – writing, producing, directing, art directing, costumes, editing, music and sound design.
This is handmade, bespoke, quality horror.