Snuff film is an urban legend. It just might be the most commonly believed urban legend on the planet, but it is a fact that no one, in human history so far, has ever filmed a murder for commercial purposes. The closest thing would either be serial killers who’ve made tapes of their murders for their own pleasure, or executions that have been filmed for official reasons that I don’t really understand. But there is obviously something appealingly abhorrent about the idea that there are people out there who would be willing to make murder films for money, and customers who’d buy them (not bloody likely in this age of digital piracy!).
Here we meet up with some guy called Ed and his wife Susan, who are apparently the Cecil B. DeMilles of the snuff industry, about to shoot their most ambitious project yet: a “triple feature”, which means three people getting killed in one video. The snuff field is limited; its ambitions don’t stretch to the Lord of the Rings and Titanics of mainstream film. In preparation for their magnum opus, Ed and Susan have outfitted their entire house with cameras like Big Brother, hence “100 eyes”. Actually it’s a fairly modest two-up, two-down, so it probably wouldn’t take anywhere near 100 cameras to get everything. But still, Ed and Susan trawl Los Angeles for suitable candidates: they have to be two young women and a “stud”, that they recruit under the pretence that they’re shooting a porno. Since they’re just going to be killing them on camera anyway, I don’t understand why their victims have to know one another, but murderers will have their idiosyncrasies, I suppose. I was more bothered by the fact that, as I said, they live in LA. We know that they live in LA, because we’re purportedly watching the film that they shot, and they drive down LA streets in the daytime looking for victims. So why haven’t they been arrested yet? They openly show their faces on camera, they talk, they use what are presumably their real names, and even if somehow none of the locals know them, the police know that their dragnet need be no wider than the Los Angeles area. We must be in an alternate universe in which snuff films are legal. Either that or they intend this to be their last feature, and they just don’t mind getting arrested or killed for the sake of their masterpiece. There’s no indication of this in the film though.
Does it matter? Probably not. A film like this doesn’t really exist to have a tight or even vaguely feasible plot, it’s just joyless exploitation. It belongs to a genre called horror, but The House with 100 Eyes isn’t actually horror. Not really. There’s nothing psychological, nothing disturbing, nothing clever or even scary, there’s just nastiness. And you’ll forget what you’ve watched almost as soon as you’ve watched it, so its only real purpose is to make you feel uncomfortable for seventy-five minutes. And I guess you will, if you bother with it, because there’s this high-pitched digital noise that plays every time a violent scene occurs. Given that we’re in found footage territory here, why should there be a nasty noise in the nasty bits? It may not be music, but it’s essentially a score, and if you’re going to have a score then you’ve abandoned verisimilitude. Plus you’re cheating, because of course it’s unpleasant to hear an unpleasant sound. That’s not horror, it’s just human physiology.
But maybe the noise is just there as an audio cue so your little sister knows when to uncover her eyes. She’s just watching it for the plot. Funnily enough, she won’t miss many scenes, because despite its atmosphere of cruelty, 100 Eyes is surprisingly tame when it comes to gore and when it comes to nudity, which feels cheap given the snuff porn theme. “Nobody pays for blood! They pay for violence” says Ed, and his own film could do with heeding that. It’s something you could easily imagine Quentin Tarantino ranting when he couldn’t get the slave owners to explode hard enough. Ed looks like Tarantino, thinks like Tarantino, and sounds like Tarantino. I don’t know whether the resemblance is deliberate, but it works incredibly well and is the most entertaining thing here. His wife, meanwhile, likes to linger waifishly, doing her best Japanese ghost impression. She’s kind of likeable though and you feel that, like Myra Hindley, she’s probably just going along with her husband’s sick fantasies. Other than that, there’s the three young victims, who are OK actors for this sort of genre stuff. One of them, Crystal, looks really young. I thought she was about twelve, though she’s supposed to be seventeen.
Plotwise 100 Eyes is decent enough, with some genuinely exciting stuff late on, though it does end very abruptly. In general it’s a bit of a vague film, sort of meandering along on what someone’s obviously decided is a good enough premise. And why not? They crank out these low-budget exploitation films to pander to people’s worst instincts, and it’s almost impossible not to make back your money. That’s the only reason this film exists, and given its raison d’être it’s…adequate.
So what do you think about The House With 100 Eyes? Does it stoke your interest? Let us know in the comment box below and be sure to visit Christian’s site Mediocre Batman!