Blind (2019)

Blind first published by

In  the opening title sequence of Blind, 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 Roman script. 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 – for, again 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 too watch Faye’s various 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 herself has lost sight of this, 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 our own 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 gorefest 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 (1967), Michael Apted’s Blink (1993) or Guillem Morales’ Julia’s Eyes (2010). 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-mutilating 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 character’s recurrent line from Jim Hosking’s The Greasy Strangler (2016). It is a weird, go-nowhere cameo, both acknowledging Michaels’ previous rôle, and doing nothing with it – but he is not wrong in his assessment of Luke’s words. For 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 indeed the screams and gasps of his victims on her own otherwise super-quiet property) – and he spends a lot of his time around corpses, but she does not smell him (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, entirely in vain, 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 just go on and on, and there is not a single scene in the film that does not feel unnecessarily drawn out. By the time, at the end, 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 really have to go, and who would want to see it? 

Summary: Marcel Walz’s visual impairment thriller offers endless stalk and slash, but little dash.

Anton Bitel