Friday, November 12, 2021

Of Glamor and Gore: Crystal Eyes (2017)

Crystal Eyes (Mirada De Cristal) (Argentina, 2017)
Rating: ***
Starring: Silvia Montanari, Anahí Politi and Erika Boveri

Buenos Aires, 1984. At a back alley runway show, supermodel Alexis Carpenter shows how much of a rotten diva she is by verbally abusing other models, scalding her make-up artist's face with hot coffee after a confrontation about her primadonna attitude, and then finally assaulting the audience with spat champagne as she jugs an entire bottle while strutting a wedding dress. This display of limelight meltdown would soon become Alexis' own undoing as the wasted wine spills unto a nearby fuse box, causing it to spark and igniting the egotist model to a blazing death in front of a shocked audience.

One year later, Lucia L’uccello, editor-in-chief of the country's top-selling fashion magazine, is about to run an issue dedicated to Alexis and her legacy on the anniversary of her death, thus she organizes a photoshoot starring her top models Eva Lantier and Irene del Lago in Alexis' original dresses. But on the night before the shoot, the dresses got stolen and from then on, those involved in the magazine are getting slaughtered one by one at the hands of a sinister mannequin-like femme fatale. Has Alexis come back from the grave somehow, seeking revenge? Or is somebody else equally depraved responsible for the increasing bodycount?

Written and directed by Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano, Crystal Eyes (2017) is a simple yet dedicated love letter to stylized 70s Italian gialli and crazy 80s slashers under the backdrop of haute couture's glamour and grit. Its relatively basic plot is virtually a barebone stroll through the usual hack-and-slash murder thriller, paced quickly enough to get the action flowing between its few slow moments and filmed vividly with as many Mario Bava and Dario Argento-inspired cinematography, particularly taking cues from Blood and Black Lace (1964) and Suspiria (1977) as lurid tints of blues and pinks, expressive editing and solid camerawork dominate the film for that fun, macabre arthouse look.

The direction does stride on a campy note, paired with a script that has its tongue firmly in its cheek and onscreen talents ranging from okay to overacting. Its a factor that basically held the film's supposed murder mystery back from being anywhere effective or deep, but the romp of entertainment this kitsch approach brings is fortunately not lacking, especially with its crazy, neon-colored murder set-pieces involving a killer that not only dresses and masks up like a showroom dummy, but also moves and poses (yes, poses) like one while killing! The predominantly female casts are also a real treat to watch, all brilliant in managing a wide variety of performances from sympathetic menaced models to fame-obsessed despite the hammy writing done for these characters and the overall tone of the flick.

Top it all with catchy 80s disco beat and retro-recognized hairdos and clothes, Crystal Eyes (2017) is, at the gist of it, a playful and substantial homage to both giallo and slasher cinema that highlights the good, the bad and the outrageous from both subgenres through an enjoyably undemanding plot. If you like shlocky yet stylish, giallo-lensed bodycounters like Stagefright (1987) and Murderock (1984), then you ought to give this Argentinian horror vogue fondue a try! 

1 female caught on fire
1 male had his throat cut with a razor
1 female repeatedly stabbed with a hand drill
1 female killed offscreen, later seen beheaded
1 female stabbed to death with a glass shard
1 female drowned in a bath tub
1 female murdered offcamera
1 male bled to death from a wounded throat
1 female impaled on a crystal bird ornament
1 female found strangled with an IV chord
Total: 10

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