Movies

What Went Right With… See No Evil (1971)?

An image of Woody from Toy Story and his cowboy boots with blood spatterWhilst recently watching Don’t Breathe 2 and re-watching Don’t Breathe, I was reminded of an old-school film called See No Evil, another thriller featuring a blind character, but this time, they’re genuine victims. Belonging to an unofficial subgenre of blind-thrillers such as Wait Until Dark (1967), Afraid Of The Dark (1991), and Blink (1994), See No Evil is also a thrilling watch with our visually-impaired protagonist having to evade a psychotic antagonist despite their disability. Viewing See No Evil again, I’ll admit it’s not as gripping as I remember it (plus it takes half an hour to really get going) but it’s still a worthwhile film that any thriller fan should seek out. I have to point out that this isn’t the godawful 2006 horror movie of the same name (which usually comes first in search results) this is the movie about a woman named Sarah (played by Mia Farrow) who returns from hospital to her Aunt’s house after a horse-riding accident which left her blind. After settling-in, going out riding, and then having a sleep, Sarah awakes to a quiet house. Unbeknownst to her, everyone has been murdered but because she can’t see, she walks right past the crime scene and misses the evidence. Will she discover who did it or will she become another victim?

SPOILERS AHEAD

See No Evil (sometimes known as “Blind Terror”) isn’t exactly a whodunnit but it’s still a bit of a mystery; you don’t find out who the killer is until the end. The antagonist is only shown from the waist down, and like another 1971 film (Duel) he’s wearing cowboy boots. The footwear isn’t some kind of clue as nobody in the cast is wearing riding boots, but like Duel, there’s a few scenes where we look at various characters and wonder if it’s them (at one point someone enters a scene wearing only socks). Incidentally, our faceless killer wears boots that resemble Woody from Toy Story, at least I thought they did. I haven’t seen the Pixar film since I was a kid, but I distinctly remember stars on the front of Andy’s toy but apparently not; either I’m mis-remembering it or it’s another Mandela Effect. But I digress.

Given the cowboy-boot-wearing menace, there’s an odd choice of music which includes Wild West elements despite the film taking place in rural England. There’s a few other issues too. There’s some kind of half-arsed opinion on violence and it’s influence on society. During the opening titles, we see horror films showing at the local cinema, there’s something violent showing on a TV in a shop front, another store is selling toy guns, and there’s violent headlines on magazines and newspapers. Evil Woody later looks at pornography, and at the end, we see bystanders looking through a gate staring through the police cordon. This point of view adds nothing to the plot and is unnecessary, especially when there’s no psychological exploration of the killer. The only explanation as to why the murderer shot the Rexton family is because he’s splashed by their car and his shoes are ruined, like a deranged Buggin Out from Do The Right Thing. Maybe this puddle-splash-overreaction is a comment on how people fly off the handle at the tiniest of problems, like a road-rage response, but in either case, the opening and close of the film is the only part where motive or societal effects are mentioned.

Brian Clemens (writer of the Thriller TV series) pens this film, and it features a decent narrative with a few good lines. This film touches on anti-traveller (gypsy) prejudice which isn’t often shown in cinema, and when Sarah’s cousin Sandra asks her “What’s it like?” (being blind) Sarah replies “Bloody awful”. There’s no extra sensory perception or heightened senses here, which is a pessimistic but realistic look at disability. This is not Daredevil. Whilst on the topic of other flicks, there’s a pre-Die Hard bare feet and glass scene, although as a viewer, it doesn’t feel as painful here.

Aside from the positives, Brian Clemens also has to take responsibility for the bad, which includes some unnecessary ideas, opinions, and a plot hole. Personally, I’d have thought a character getting on another horse would be a no-no after it’s given them life-changing injuries (plus without seeing the passing scenery it’s really just a bumpy bike). Getting on a horse whilst blind coupled with being afraid of what happened the last time, could have added to a reluctant escape from the killer but it doesn’t. The main issue however, is that once we discover who’s responsible for the murders, you realise that character would have to hastily change from his moccasins to his cowboy boots at one point. That bloke must have rocket-powered footwear to get from one scene to another! And that’s the big problem; repeat viewings not only spoil the reveal but the mystery too, given the implausibility of the culprit and his presence in two locations within seconds of an edit.

Directed by Richard Fleischer (Soylent Green) there’s lots of shaky camera-work which would make Paul Greengrass shake with excitement. Like I said, this is a thrilling, err… thriller and the direction plays a huge part in creating mystery and suspense. The best part of the film is when we see the lead character doing a “Suzy” in Wait Until Dark, wandering around missing evidence, in this case corpses (and speaking of corpses, when everyone’s dead, the actors all keep very still and it’s quite convincing). Whilst on the topic of the dead victims, most of the dead bodies are in resting positions – on a bed and in a bath – rather than in the midst of running away, which seems like Ronald DeFeo has run a muck again (how can someone get a shot off without their next victim moving away or toward them as a response?) 🧐 But I digress.

In terms of acting, Mia Farrow does her usual mousy victim. If you liked her in Rosemary’s Baby, you’ll probably like her in this and you may also enjoy her English accent. Similar to Johnny Depp’s English accent however, Farrow is almost there but there’s a hint of Yank (at least American Werewolf In London‘s Lila Kaye slaps some of it out of her 😉). I’m not really a fan of Mia Farrow or horse riding or toffs, but this is a thriller that’s worth watching, especially the first time, and especially if you enjoyed Don’t Breathe (or hated Don’t Breathe 2).

Wacko Jacko.

Writing: 6/10

Directing: 6/10

Acting: 6/10

Overall: 6/10

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