Movies From the Black Lagoon: Eyes of a Stranger

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Eyes of a Stranger- 1981,Rated R

Warner Brothers finally trotted out some of their horror products with the "Twisted Terror Collection", which saw six of their releases finally rating a DVD release. This 80's horror yarn was lucky to make the cut but it does provide a modicum of suspense (thanks to director Ken Wiederhorn) and some gruesome effects work, courtesy of Tom Savini.
The film opens with a quiet scene in which a photographer strolls around a mangrove swamp taking shots of the flora and fauna, which includes, oddly enough, a decomposing corpse. Turns out this is the work of the "Miami Strangler" dubbed this by the media. We then meet anchorwoman Jane who feels compelled to panic the populace by insisting that viewers report anything they deem as suspicious to their local police department. Meanwhile, we also get a look at the killer who stalks a vaguely European stripper and makes prank calls to her before entering her apartment. Luckily, her boyfriend shows up, but the maniac who manages to decapitate the poor dope and sink his head in a fish tank while the stripper is out of the room easily dispatches him. The stripper meets a similar fate and then the movie gets interesting as the maniac returns home and is spotted by Jane in the parking garage they share. Her spider sense is activated when she spies the killer changing out of a bloodied shirt before heading to his apartment. The effect of this 16-ton clue is immediate and before you know it she is consumed with catching him out to the extent that civil liberties no longer have any meaning to her. Before you know it she has learned his name, Stanley Herbert (which hangs two nerd handles on the guy) and is soon breaking into his apartment and stealing his clothes. Her behavior is almost justified by a subplot that finds her taking care of her kid sister Tracy. Flashbacks reveal that Jane was supposed to be watching her sibling when the child was abducted by a stranger who traumatized her so badly that she has shut out the world by becoming deaf and blind.
Jane's campaign goes off the rails when she begins making harassing phone calls to Herbert wherein she tries to get him to turn himself in. That idea backfires badly with Hebert, instead, deciding to find out who is on to him. Pretty soon Jane's actions bring about the inevitable result of luring the killer to her doorstep where, once again, her sister is placed in the line of fire.
This one mostly works thanks to sustained tension, Hitchcockian plot elements, and good performances. The one negative is leading actor Lauren Tewes. The ex-"Love Boat" star was coming off an addiction to cocaine (which cost her a berth on the prime time hit) at the time and her bug-eyed performance and shrill line readings are not indicative of her talent. Luckily, she's clean and sober now, but this film catches her at an awkward moment. The rest of the cast is right on target however with Jennifer Jason Leigh impressing as sister Tracy while character actor John DiSanti makes the most of his screen time as the killer who cleverly lurks behind an awkward social exterior. All that and you get a slam bang ending that avoids 80's staples (such as false scares and killers who never die) and pits Leigh against DiSanti. The final message - that a similar trauma can remove psychosomatic symptoms, may be preposterous but who goes to a movie like this for the message.
Best Line: "Roger, in a situation like this with the possibility of a mad killer roaming our city even the slightest suspicion should be reported to the police."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@pennswoods.net.