I hate to say supermodel Alexis Carpenter (Camila Pizzo) had it coming, but after wasting everyone’s time coking up before her appearance in the “Atilla” magazine fashion show, scalding the face of her makeup artist with a piping hot cup of coffee, and not to mention her all around bitchy disposition, she kind of had it coming.
Set in mid-1980s Argentina, Crystal Eyes (Mirada de Cristal), begins with a highly stylized fashion show where sweet Alexis is the reason anyone is there to see it. Upon her appearance on the runway, coked-up Alexis pops a bottle of bubbly, pours it into the grates below (because any good 80s drenched fashion show should take place in a grimy back alley venue), igniting an electrical panel that sends a few thousand volts through her killing her on the spot. Prior to this, we see a lace-gloved hand throw the switch on the panel in question, suggesting a murderer is on the loose, however, Alexis is wearing the same glove, so maybe we chalk it up to her attempt at coked-up performance art. Either way, since what we’re dealing with here is in the Giallo realm, nothing is what it seems and there are no straight answers.
A year later, slightly menacing magazine honcho Lucia L’uccelo (Silvia Montanari) is organizing a tribute photoshoot to dearly departed Alexis. Determined not to have his sister be made into a mockery, Alexis’ brother Hernan (Nacho Joshas) attempts to steal the wardrobe arranged for the shoot. As Hernan seductively undresses mannequins on his brotherly crusade, one, in particular, comes to life and puts a straight razor across his throat, setting this crazy flick into motion. What follows is a series of not necessarily unique or interesting on-screen kills, but kills nonetheless of several of Alexis’ contemporaries by the hand of a garish, unsettling Alexis-possessed mannequin, or is it?
We’ve seen it before, but have we seen it with a literal bird with crystal plumage? Written and directed by Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano, Crystal Eyes plays a pretty straightforward homage to classic Giallo on the surface, paying tribute to the genre’s greatest hits from the 70s and 80s—particularly the colorful style of Dario Argento’s Suspiria. But in the Giallo spirit of nothing ever being what it seems, the constant theme of image and reflection—complete with a set of twins, supermodels imitating the deceased Alexis, repetition of shot-blocking in a couple of sequences, and the film’s overall genuflection to the genre—all but reveals what ends up being a rather intricate twist to an otherwise stalk and stab murder mystery.
As the Alexis-possessed mannequin makes her rounds knocking off beautiful women, the episodic kills are hardly anything to write home about, but that’s my American influence talking. If we look back on the great gialli of the past, most of them are more about the mystery and less about the execution. However, one unique exception would be Lucio Fulci’s Aenigma, which also plays episodic kills from a bitchy, possessed bully, but is loaded with crazy kills up to and including murder-by-snails. But I digress. If you’re not into possession, then perhaps resurrection plays more believable to you, which is absolutely a possibility inferred here. Crystal Eyes not only draws influence from the more obvious entries but also contains a few narrative parallels particularly in terms of the killer’s true identity that slightly echo Emilio Miragilia’s The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave. That said, you could throw a dart and hit any number of similarities throughout Giallo history, and in keeping with the film’s love letter effort, that’s successfully its point.
There’s no shortage of mediocre Giallo in the world which is enough to cause some to consider passing this up. But Crystal Eyes not only knows what it is and where it comes from, but it also remains delightfully original with a perfect pace and the right dose of camp to avoid crimes of boredom that tend to plague weaker submissions. Also, the throbbing synth soundtrack and over-the-top performances from beautiful people easily make this a refreshing entry in an otherwise arguably tepid and difficult-to-achieve category of cinema.
Dir: Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano
Scr: Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano
Cast: Silvia Montanari, Anahi Politi, Erika Boveri, Claudio Armesto, Valeria Giorcelli, Camila Pizzo, Diego Benedetto, Nacho Joshas, Agustina del Rosal and Victoria del Rosal
Prd: Ezequiel Endelman, Tamae Garateguy, Leandro Montejano
DOP: Cecilia Casas, Vanina Gottardi
Runtime: 80 minutes
Available on home video from Arrow Video.