If you’re a wealthy, attractive woman, stay out of Arizona, because you are fair game. A twisted killer is on the loose and he tortures and dissects his beautiful victims as part of a primitive Indian ritual. All the clues lead to one man who is clearly innocent. But nothing is as simple as black and white in White Of The Eye. David Keith (An Officer And A Gentleman, Firestarter, Daredevil) and Cathy Moriarty (Raging Bull, Casper) star in this shocking mystery-thriller co-written and directed by Donald Cammell (Demon Seed and co-director of Performance). The film also features an eclectic score by Nick Mason (Pink Floyd) and Rick Fenn (10cc).
Thrillers and serial killer movies require a delicate balance of tone, story revelations, and suspense. If any of those elements fail to line up, the film becomes a house of cards just waiting for a stiff breeze to blow them over. Some films succeed and stand up, others crumble. Then you have movies like Donald Cammell's 'White of the Eye' starring Cathy Moriarty and David Keith - a movie that uses these genre conventions and turns them on their head to create an unexpectedly chilling thriller.
For a rich, upper-class desert suburban community, murder is riding the winds disrupting local life. As rich housewives turn up dead, their bodies mutilated, the police, lead by Detective Mendoza (Art Evans), have only a scant few clues to turn them towards a suspect. The only thing they've got to go on are a pair of tire tracks that only a few people have, and Paul White (David Keith) just happens to live in town. As a sound system technician, Paul provides for his wife Joan (Cathy Moriarty) and their littler daughter Danielle (Danielle Smith) by building custom-made audio receivers and speaker systems for people willing to spend a lot of cash. Because his work requires a rugged truck that can get up those steep hills, Paul's tires and his frequent proximity to the murder sites have put him in the crosshairs of the police.
Not helping matters for Paul any is the fact that Joan has become suspicious of his day-to-day movements. Not that she suspects him of being a brutal killer or anything like that, but the fact that Paul seems to have taken up sleeping with one of his rich clients who conveniently has trouble with her top-of-the-line satellite system at strange times of the day. When Joan's old flame Mike Desantos (Alan Rosenberg) shows up out of the blue, Joan starts to have second thoughts and fears about the man she's living with, and the man she used to love. As the police close in on Paul with their slim circumstantial evidence, Joan is put in the dangerous position of solving these murders herself.
'White of the Eye' is a movie that goes a long way to play things by the numbers but at the same time works to shake things up with a languid pace and an intricate structure. Just when you think the film isn't going anywhere fast, it dips into a seemingly innocuous flashback that showcases a little of the backstory involving Paul, Joan, and Mike and how Joan and Mike used to be an item and how Joan ended up with Paul. At first these scenes feel like unnecessary distracting filler shot with heavy filters and color grading to look "flashy" and "cool." But then the plot catches up to these moments and the movie just becomes outright creepy.
Following my usual style, I am reluctant to divulge any kind of spoiler, but I'll say that the big reveal felt a wee bit on the nose, but then in the context of the flashbacks we've already seen, it's a bit of a chilling revelation. At first the flashbacks felt like some sort of excuse to be artsy-fartsy in order to disguise the film's story and plot shortcomings, but then the movie decides to get intense and the payoff of watching those scenes comes through in fine order. From there, the film builds to a climax that is all too personal for our three central characters and the little girl caught in the crossfire.
Performances are key for this film, and if any one of the primary actors slipped up in any way - the whole show could have come undone like someone pulling a thread on a sweater. David Keith has long been one of my favorite character actors who for whatever reason has never made it big. He's been in great movies and delivered fine performances, but here he's in peak form. You never quite know where his tendencies lay as he plays a sweet-natured father, but he's also a philanderer and even then, there's something about him that doesn't quite feel right. Then we have Alan Rosenberg as the down-on-his-luck Mike. Rosenberg runs the role just right as he's a side character that we really only get to see and learn about through the flashbacks, but then when he comes back into Joan's life it is anyone's guess what his true desires are. Then we come to the always great Cathy Moriarty as Joan. She plays the part with the right amount of iciness and innocence to make you believe that she's a caring wife and mother, but at the same time think she could be a brutal killer as well. It's quite a rollercoaster to watch these three in action and the smart script and direction by Donald Cammell keep you guessing.
My journey with 'White of the Eye' was a strange one. At first I thought I was going to be a bit bored by this film due to its slow start and even slower pacing - but then something clicked about midway into the second act and I couldn't take my eyes off it. The story started to come together in a way that was somewhat expected, but through an unconventional structure that keeps the movie engaging. While far from perfect, 'White of the Eye' does manage to deliver the goods in a big way by the time the credits roll. I ended up being thoroughly entertained by this movie. My hope is that people willing to give this one a go will have the patience to get through the first act and get hooked for the rest of the ride. The payoff is absolutely worth it and makes 'White of the Eye' a worthy entry in the Cannon Films library.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'White of the Eye' arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Scream Factory and is pressed onto a Region A locked BD50 disc. Housed in a standard 2-disc case with identical DVD, this Blu-ray set comes with reversible artwork. The disc opens to an animated main menu.
For a low-budget film from 1986, I wasn't expecting a whole lot from this image transfer, but it turned out to be very impressive. Struck from a new 2K High-Definition transfer from the original camera negative by Arrow Video for the UK release, the results are very impressive - especially when you consider how the director intended the film to look this stylized. This movie looks about as close to seeing it in theaters as you're going to get for a home video release. Colors are rich and vibrant throughout and when the film segues to one of the flashbacks, primaries are pushed to the blues creating a high-contrast blown-out look that is both creepy and satisfying. During normal sequences, there is a dream-like haziness that according to the commentary track is intentional, so the image can appear a bit contrasty in places and flesh tones can push to the pinks ever so slightly. With fine film grain intact, detail levels for this transfer are outright stunning as every facial feature can be cleanly seen, costuming, set design, and most impressively the desert landscape of the Arizona shooting locations. Not having ever seen this in theaters or on any prior home video format, it's difficult to judge comparatively, but you can color me impressed by this transfer.
Sporting a DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track, 'White of the Eye' earns some strong auditory marks. One of the things I loved about this movie was it's impressive and hypnotic sound design work. The film is almost wall to wall sound effects and music - but in a way that doesn't overwhelm the senses and in fact, helps pull you into the world this movie aims to build. Dialogue is crisp and clear and never a struggle to hear. Sound effects have a heightened resonance to them that allows them to seem authentic but at the same time a bit otherworldly - this is especially true during the film's murder sequences and during the climax. Then you have the wild score by Nick Mason of Pink Floyd and Rick Finn of 10cc. At first it feels like a bit too much and out of place, but then like the flashback sequences, all of a sudden the whole thing comes together and just makes sense and this audio track puts this fantastic score on full display.
Audio Commentary: Donald Cammell biographer Sam Umland does an okay job with this track. It's largely focused on describing what we're already seeing on screen and he speaks about what's going on it thematically. He offers some background information and comparatively to the original novel, but not a lot of big production tidbits.
Into The White: Filming White of the Eye: (HD 11:00) A great interview with Director of Photography Larry McConkey talking about working with Donald Cammell on this film.
Into The Vortex With Alan Rosenberg: (HD 17:51) The actor goes into a lot of detail about working on the film and his set experiences as well as seeing the film for the first time.
Eye of the Detective With Art Evans: (HD 15:36) The actor talks about shooting this film and 'Ruthless People' at the same time and how he got the part and what it was like working with director Donald Cammell.
Deleted Scenes: (HD 5:31) Because the raw production audio for these scenes is missing, Sam Umland provides a commentary over them to explain their significance and offer insights into the scenes. It's some strong character stuff that is interesting, but I think they were cut for good reason.
Flashback Sequences Prior To The Bleach Bypass Process: (HD 11:50) An interesting look at what went into creating that bleached-out look. It's interesting to see these scenes without the color timing changes, but the elaborate coloring really helps set these scenes apart later into the movie.
Alternate Credit Sequence: (HD 2:27) Not too different, the music just comes in later than it did for the final cut.
I love it when I discover a back catalog title like 'White of the Eye.' As a mid-80s thriller, it was one of those movies that somehow had flown completely under my radar and I'm glad that Scream Factory has seen it fit to add this title to their library. This Blu-ray features an impressive new 2k HD transfer and a strong DTS-HD MA stereo track to match. Add in a ton of worthwhile extras and this disc becomes pretty easy to recommend!