From the moment you hear Barbara Streisand’s voice singing ‘Prisoner’, you know this isn’t going to be just like any other run of the mill horror you’ve witnessed before. Coupled with the big close up over Faye Dunaway’s face, the shock and the horror of the first few minutes has already sunk in and you can’t tear yourself away.
Fashion photographer Laura Mars, who specialises in stylized violence is celebrating a gallery show of her work which sparks controversy over whether she glamourises violence and horror when she starts to see things. She sees in first person a killer murder her friends and colleagues as right before her eyes. As the investigation goes from suspect to suspect, the killer gets even closer to Mars herself.
Using the familiar trappings of red herrings, twists, scissors and murder, we’re also treated to a supernatural theme mixed in with a serial killer chase as well as Tommy Lee Jones’ 70s hairstyle. Laura Mars has psychic powers but of course, no one believes her. She has a strange connection to whoever the killer is and as her friends and colleagues are picked off one by one the tension builds and creeps up on you and has you guessing what is actually happening right up until the shock end. There is more to what we see through the eyes of Laura Mars.
Originally written by John Carpenter, the horror overtones never give way to the neo-noir thriller aspect of the story. The use of the soundtrack, a mixture of upbeat pop tunes to the exaggerated creepy music signifying when a murder will take place to the point of view camera angles, the film is reminiscent of such classics the genre as ‘Peeping Tom’, another film centered around voyeurism and an obsession with film and cameras. Eyes of Laura Mars has been perfectly described as an American version of an Italian Giallo genre film, fully equipped with the mystery in the story and the bloody gory deaths.
While the film comments on the fashion industry, even briefly saying Mars’ photography is offensive to women, the criticisms are on the whole, light, favouring the spectacle of the story and the murder scenes over this particular subject. The film celebrates what we see through a camera lens and how we all love to observe and watch. We are all transformed into voyeurs while watching this film and although we witness the gruesome death, like Laura we are helpless but unlike our heroine, we relish the acts, though I’m sure, many might deny this. Why else do we watch horror films?
Dir: Irvin Kershner
Prd: Jack H. Harris, Jon Peters, Laura Ziskin
Scr: John Carpenter, David Zelag Goodman
Cast: Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif, René Auberjonois, Raúl Juliá
DoP: Victor J. Kemper
Music: Artie Kane
Run time: 104 minutes
Eyes of Laura Mars is available on Blu ray