Two Eyes Staring
Staring blankly, I'd wager. Hardly a terribly thriller, but rather dull.
Even, or perhaps especially, during a film festival there's no reason not to assume that my default position of "Horror films are almost certainly going to suck" would hold any less true, regardless of the relative obscurity of the work. Still, Zwart water was going around calling itself a psychological horror, so I thought why not give it a chance?
Retrospectively, the answer to this question would be "Because it's not very good at all", but such is life. The basics of this Dutch outing should probably sound familiar enough. A young family consisting of Christine (Hadewych Minis), Paul (Barry Atsma) and their daughter Lisa (Isabelle Stokkel) up sticks from their native Holland to Belgium when word gets through that Christine's mother has died, bequeathing to them her creepy old house that I believe is one zombie dog infestation away from being the mansion from the first Resident Evil game.
Students of horror history will know that this is not a good situation for a family to be in, but apparently they skipped Amityville Horror 101 and so decide to move in and create a new life for themselves. Christine lands a demanding dream job as a fashion designer, which means that she has little time for Lisa, who is struggling to integrate into her new society.
Before long the inherent creepiness of the house rises above groaning staircases and clanking pipes when Lisa starts hearing noises from the basement, coming from what to all intents and purposes is a ghost. Oh noes! A ghost!
While there's an attempt to keep this grounded, to some degree, in the reality of the character's past actions coming back to haunt them, and the impact of this on their relationships, it's also so firmly anchored to horror cliche that it can't break free of the same faults. It shares that all so pervasive flaw of the genre by mistaking tension for orchestration. This is especially baffling in a scenario custom built for building an acoustic atmosphere using the ambient sounds of an old house rather than a soundtrack that sounds like a fight in an orchestra pit.
While this is pretty effective at undermining any attempts to build tension, the brutal truth is that there's never any attempt made that looks like it's going to come close to its mark. It seems to be constructed entirely around the general theme of "Young kids are creepy" without doing an awful lot to back it up, and it's not doing much else of interest either.
It would appear at points to want to veer into character study territory, which is fine, if you've got interesting characters with something to say. This doesn't, and while it's a mile away from the usual stock horror characters, it's not accomplished enough to pull off.
Which is not to say that this is a badly crafted film, indeed it's standing comfortably above its genre stablemates. There's the odd very pretty shot, showing off the effectively imposing location, and the acting is a cut above what you'd expect on hearing that it's playing in the same league as other horrors.
Two Eyes Staring is by no means a bad film. It's far worse - it's a dull film. There's really not much in the way of interest here, apart from reinforcing the general message that you shouldn't live in the mansion from Resident Evil, and perhaps the most pointless final reel explanatory reveal shot in the history of cinema. This film ain't foolin' no-one, mister.
When the most enjoyment I gained from a film was misreading one of the actors names in the opening credits and briefly thinking he was called Barry Asthma, who I imagine runs, or perhaps only jogs lightly with the New Jersey crew, it's going to be difficult to recommend the film to anyone. So I won't.
Barry Atsma (Paul)
Isabelle Stokkel (Lisa)
Charlotte Arnoldy (Karen)