Alexis Bruchon’s jazzy DIY debut The Woman With the Leopard Shoes introduced the French filmmaker as the ultimate one-man-band. A writer, producer, director, editor, cinematographer, composer and sound designer who, with very little help and backing, could put together a visually-rich and properly thrilling little pot boiler. And his follow-up, this year’s equally handsome and handmade The Eyes Below, is happily more of the same; a stripped back chamber piece that puts visual storytelling loudly and proudly front-and-centre.
On the page, it’s a bare-bones chiller that basically comes down to simply a bad night’s sleep. A nervy journalist, on the brink of breaking a major, game-changing news story, retreats to an isolated cabin and settles in for the night, only to find a pair of piercing eyes watching him from beyond the foot of his bed. And what begins as a classical, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night style exercise in terror, (Bruchon well and truly cracking his horror knuckles one by one), soon mutates several times over.
First, a semi-survival thriller – a man trapped in his bed, furiously pawing after tools to free himself. Then, something of a claustrophobic nightmare as Bruchon descends into some impressively visceral world-building, before finally playing its cards outright in a beautifully tense and rewarding final act.
It’s an unusual 75 minutes to say the least. A hazy anxiety dream of a film that brings together Bruchon’s suave flair for mystery, with a much punchier, crunchier take on horror. It won’t be for everyone (particularly those who like a strong narrative), but thanks to what can only be described as some technical mastery from Bruchon and his truly tiny team, what’s here really floats together seamlessly on the ramshackle budget, with very little noticeable stitching.
Namely it’s the sound that makes a huge mark. Bruchon’s own completely dialogue-free script leaves a lot of room for visual storytelling flourishes (seriously, much like his first, this should be taught in film schools), but also allows him to fill in the gaps with a completely killer sound design; ripping together his own hair-rising score with some truly primordial sounds, making the darkness and all that lies beyond the film’s greatest terror.
For fans of micro-budget ingenuity, it’s a true home-run, building beautifully on a confident debut, and starting to compete with chillers hundreds of times the size. Even if you already had Bruchon’s name on your list of filmmakers to watch for the future, The Eyes Below begs you to underline it.
The Eyes Below screened as part of Arrow Video FrightFest 2022.