REVIEW: The Eyes Below (2022)

dir. Alexis Bruchon

A journalist (Vinicius Coelho) works during the day, seeking to uncover a political scandal before retiring for the night. But as he drifts off a malign presence creeps out the shadows and he finds himself unable to exit the bed, his dreams and reality folding in on themselves in a liminal, inescapable nightmare.

Director Bruchon is fast establishing himself as a master of single-location horror thrillers. His previous feature The Woman With Leopard Shoes (2020) – also a FrightFest film – saw a thief pinned down at a party, trapped in a spare room as he tried to puzzle out the intrigue behind his situation. If anything this sophomore outing is even more ambitious, with our protagonist confined not just to a room but to a bed for almost the entire run-time.

And yet – as with Rodrigo Cortés’ Buried (2010) – this extreme restriction is the jumping off point for some incredibly visual story-telling. As our protagonist slips into a (possibly?) lucid dream the laws of space dissolve, his bed both impossibly large and claustrophobically tiny, a prison that is also a potential hell mouth over otherworldly depths. With moments that recall Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) Bruchon effectively weaponises what should be our safest of spaces. More impressive still is he does this with no dialogue, relying instead on rich lensing, an undulating soundscape and Coelho’s panicked performance.

Limitations do eventually emerge as – even with the sub-80-minute run-time – the pacing becomes repetitive, but with some splendid third act reveals that pleasingly come full circle the film rewards in spades. Just don’t expect to sleep easy after watching.

© Tim Coleman

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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