The October Diaries: Eyes of Fire

Illustration by Max Brown
Blurbs by Sean & Christof

October 13th, 2014:
Eyes of Fire

Year: 1983
Director: Avery Crounse
Format: VHS
: A preacher is accused of adultery and he and his followers are chased out of town and become stranded in an isolated forest which is haunted by the spirits of long dead Native Americans.

Christof’s Take:

This was another one of our VHS viewings for the month. It was necessary because there has yet to be a DVD release in the US. But the low-budget witch-and-myth-horror special effects of the early-eighties looks great on fuzzy, dreamy videocassette.

This was a languid, strung-out period piece that was set in the “Colonial America” of 1750. Despite its apparent strangeness and low-but-well-utilized budget, it seemed to take the period aspect more seriously than I had expected. Not that I have much experience in time-travel against which I can judge its authenticity, but the characterization in particular seemed to at least be motivated by a beyond-surface-level fascination with what life in that period may have been like.

There were some gorgeous images that were cut together with “Follow me, I know the way..” kind of certainty, but you suspect this could be a bluff. Some of the shots made me really wish I was watching a BluRay – not that a degradation connoisseur can’t have a pretty good time with this one. What really pulled the movie along was the internal monologue voice-over. It sounded a little like it was written by Terrence Malick and Richard Brautigan on a rainy morning, as they were having their coffee, but before the caffeine had entered their bloodstreams.

In addition to all sorts of strange witchcraft and nightmare-whimsy that really starts to cook at the end, there were great little details throughout to keep you engaged, to keep you convinced care was put into this.

My favorite: there is a shot of a goat eating scripture.

One of the last notes I took that night reads as follows: “Very surprised I want to rewatch this.” And I’d recommend it with that disclaimer.


“Eyes of Fire” Title Card on VHS Pause, 2014  — $11,000,000,000

Sean’s Take:

I love it when I get a full-on onslaught. I can concede love to a film where the images come at me in rapid enough succession that, eventually, I just have to release my grip on analytical examination and get washed away by the more “fnaaa-niiiiiice” type of reactions. This one had plenty of those. Faces appear etched in trees and stones, and all manner of spirits manifest from the nooks and crannies of the forest — some creep out of a bubbling pool of water while others emerge from clumps of leaves. The biggest visual jawdrop for me came when a little possessed girl exploded like a powder keg after being shot. If moments of kinetic insanity like that sound like something you might be interested in beholding, Eyes of Fire should be sought out.

Like with Sole Survivor, we had to venture to Movie Madness to find a copy of this one. It was a VHS copy because unless you watch your horror movies in Thailand or Brazil, you never lived somewhere that got a DVD release. It feels like a title Drafthouse Films would rescue from obscurity and deliver to an unexpecting contemporary audience.

Despite this movie’s budgetary limitations, it managed to feel much more lived-in than most period pieces. The actors all sold their accents well enough to fool me and they all looked miserable enough to match the era. I could follow enough of what was happening during this movie to forgive the other big stretches where plot elements were exchanged hand-over-fist for raw cluster-fuck-flavored imagery.

Thinking it was going to be a more straight-forward witchy-woman yarn, I was surprised it ended up weaving together a much more broad mythology. A wide variety of spirits from the forest realm were represented, often in very visually arresting ways, and the scope of the film expanded by featuring a rotating cast of characters to serve as narrater, giving it a rough-around-the-edges indie-naturalism that would make David Gordon Green grin through a mouthful of popcorn.

I genuinely adore titles like these. The ones that you are reluctant to recommend, but find a small hidden spot in your heart for them. It was a true indie horror vision, one with a far-reaching imagination that managed to outshine any lack of sustained coherence.



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