NOTE: Here is my review from Soda & Telepaths that was posted back on August 18, 2021
Eye Without A Face lets us inside the mind of a man named Henry (Dakota Shapiro), an agoraphobic man with a serious anxiety disorder who spends his days staying inside his home watching women who live nearby on hacked webcams. The only other person who knows about his habit of doing this is his roommate Eric (Luke Cook), a struggling actor and online personality who is always late on the rent but is also handy to have around the place because he’s one of the few people who can help Henry through his anxiety attacks.
During one of Henry’s sessions of webcam viewing, he ends up hacking the webcam of Laura (Vlada Verevko) who, as far as Henry can tell, seems to have murdered someone. Of course, Henry can’t be exactly sure of this and his agoraphobia (and the literal crime of hacking into Laura’s webcam) prevents him from going to the police so Henry must try and find some other way of finding out if Laura is actually a murderer… and if she isn’t, then who is the one killing all the other women whose cameras Henry’s hacked.
So if you read that plot description and said “Wait, isn’t that a little bit like that Hitchcock movie, Rear Window” then you’re one hundred percent correct, Eye Without A Face is a modern take on Rear Window, something that I’m conceptually fine with. If you’re going to steal from anyone, steal from Hitchcock whenever you get the chance because he was one of the best at making this kind of film.
If you can take his films and put a modern twist on them then that should easily lend itself to a decent thriller, and the twist of “seeing a murder over a hacked webcam” is certainly a good modernisation of the Rear Window concept… that’s the best thing about this film, the concept.
In execution Eye Without A Face has more than a few problems, mostly down to the core decision to make the main character a complete emotionless being who barely seems to react to anything. He spends most of the film just sitting and staring at a computer monitor with no real reaction on his face to any of the events that happen.
It never feels like it’s impacting Henry to see people being murdered. If anything he’s just completely detached, in a way that doesn’t feel as unnerving as they might have intended it to feel. Some of the moments with him work, moments where Henry talks to a sex worker have a sense of unease to them and the final sequence has its moments but most of the time, Henry is just not an interesting protagonist.
Also what isn’t interesting, or at least isn’t treated like it’s that interesting, is the actual potential murderer themselves. We really only get to watch them for a few moments and maybe start seeing the potential problems building up before they wisely catch on that they’re being watched, put tape over their webcam, and leave the film until the final sequence reminds us that they’re part of this narrative. It kills the tension (what little was built by that point) stone dead and makes their return to the film less of a shocker and more of an “Oh right, you were part of this”.
There is some hope with the story of how Henry’s dad was a cruel abuser, a thing we’re reminded of with regular flashbacks and hallucinations and it builds to a moment that’s… interesting (and also another Hitchcock lift, but if I name what film it lifts from then you might guess the ending) but ends up just leaving more questions than answers. It certainly helps us understand Henry more and explains his intense anxiety disorder but it’s also a reminder that Henry should be a more interesting character than he is because he’s such a blank slate.
You can almost see Eye Without A Face working, at times it really does manage to make something interesting out of the elements it borrowed from one of the greats but it doesn’t do that much new with it outside of the change in viewing technology. Most of the time it’s just not anywhere near as tension-filled as it should be, choosing instead to just kind of coast with moments of shock that really don’t end up being that shocking.
Eye Without A Face is a film that has an interesting starting point that could use a classic story as a commentary on modern privacy issues but instead just squanders it for a slightly rambling tale that never really works and has a weak payoff. It’s the kind of film you want to like because you know the idea should work, but the more it goes on the more it becomes apparent that it takes some considerable skill to properly do a Hitchcock lift and that’s just not present here.