FrightFest VOD film review: Blind (2019)
Anton Bitel | On 29, Aug 2020
Director: Marcel Walz
Cast: Sarah French, Jed Rowen, Caroline Williams, Tyler Gallant, Thomas Haley, Ben Kaplan, Jessica Galetti, Sheri Davis
Watch Blind (2019) online in the UK: FrightFest 2020
Blind streams as part of FrighFest 2020 at 6pm on Saturday 29th August. For the full festival line-up and online ticket information, click here
Warning: This contains spoilers.
In Blind’s opening titles, we watch Faye (Sarah French) cutting a red rose in her garden and preparing it for display in a vase, while credits appear on screen first as grouped dots of Braille, before resolving into more conventional text. Faye is, indeed, blind, her sight recently destroyed by a standard laser surgery procedure that went horrifically wrong – and now, she is just like that rose, her own life cut short in its prime and her beauty faded (at least in her own eyes). If only she could see herself as others do – like that rose, Faye is very much on display through the big glass windows and doors of her luxury home in the Hollywood Hills, and some of the prying eyes that watch her (without her awareness) are far from welcome.
Of course, those eyes include our own, as we also watch Faye’s domestic routines and efforts to learn to live with blindness. It is a peculiar dynamic, as our own forced voyeurism is matched to and modulated by that of other invisible oglers – be it her mute counsellor and friend Luke (Tyler Gallant), who sees her for who she is even after she has lost sight of that, or the Sushi Boy (Ben Kaplan) who creepily spies on her and sniffs her underwear after bringing her home delivery one night, or the kindly LAPD officer (Thomas Haley) who looks out for her rather than leering at her, or the masked psychopath (Jed Rowen) who obsessively stalks her and dreams of a romantic entanglement with the object of his deranged affection. It is as though, in parading before us the private moments of a vulnerable actress while also showing a range of men observing her with one intention or another, Blind is confronting us with our own gaze and desire as viewers – even as Faye struggles with her own self-image, and her new invisibility within her industry.
Accordingly, this latest film for Marcel Walz (who remade Herschell Gordon Lewis’ trashy gore-fest Blood Feast in 2016) sets itself up to be simultaneously a satire (of sorts) on the superficial values of the Hollywood machine, and a visual impairment thriller following in the shadow of, say, Terence Young’s Wait Until Dark, Michael Apted’s Blink or Guillem Morales’ Julia’s Eyes. Yet the scenes of Faye’s deranged stalker either pottering about in his neon-lit, doll-festooned man cave or silently inserting himself into the immediate vicinity of his oblivious prey become so numbingly repetitive, that their inherent tension is quickly diluted through sheer frequency alone, and we start to see him, for all his occasional acts of fetishistic doll-mutilation or even actual murder, as just part of the furniture.
Early in Blind, at a therapy meeting for the visually impaired run at Faye’s house, Luke suggests that those who have lost one sense will find their other senses becoming more heightened. “Bullshit,” insists a group member played by Michael St. Michaels, reprising his recurrent line from Jim Hosking’s The Greasy Strangler. It is a weird, go-nowhere cameo – acknowledging Michaels’ previous role and doing nothing with it – but he is not wrong in his assessment of Luke’s words.
Faye seems entirely incapable of detecting the near-constant presence of another person in her house. He is a lumbering slasher of the heavy-breathing variety, but she does not hear him (or the screams and gasps of his victims on her otherwise super-quiet property). He spends a lot of his time around corpses, but she does not smell it (until, that is, she mistakenly smells him). One might empathise with her helplessness, but Faye is barely credible as a character. Her blindness seems to be the least of her sensory deprivations – and, for a while, you may catch yourself entertaining the idea that the murderous admirer in Faye’s midst may be a mere figment of her imagination or a projection of her self-regarding vanity. Anything to make the story more interesting than it is.
Blind lacks all economy. The prolonged game of cat-and-mouse between Faye and her stalker is almost entirely one-sided (the mouse never knows that she is playing) and therefore event-free. Faye delivers sentimentally soap-operatic confessional monologues that go on and on, and there is not a single scene that does not feel drawn-out. By the time a title reveals that what we have been watching is just ‘Part 1’ of Blind, your eyes will be rolling into the back of your head. Where else does this story have to go? And who would want to see it?