On a rare occasion, the passage of time helps a film age like a fine wine. Such a rare example of this phenomenon is best observed in the case of Georges Franju’s French horror film, Eyes Without a Face (1960). Released the same year that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) was criticized for its “vulgar” shot of a flushing toilet, Eyes Without a Face is a movie that phenomenally blends emotional turmoil with the grotesque into a simple story whose unnerving aura transcends time and language. With four screenings of the film scheduled for this week thanks to the Secret Celluloid Society, now is an opportune time to sit back and re-examine a classic that deserves more mainstream attention than it currently has.
To believers of the supernatural, the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California is the remnant of an unfortunately haunted widow, while skeptics see the mansion as a monument to the power of inherited guilt. After consulting with a medium who foretold that the spirits killed by Winchester branded rifles would haunt her until her death, Sarah Winchester’s mansion became legendary for having been under construction every day of her life. The end result was a beautifully ornate mansion that once stood seven stories tall, and was filled with over a hundred and fifty rooms, stairwells and doors that lead to nowhere, and had the chaotic floor-plan of a labyrinth. Knowing this, when I heard there were plans to make a film about Sarah Winchester and her interactions with a psychiatrist, I was genuinely excited by the prospect of a horror film that blurred the line between a genuine haunting and tragic psychological turmoil.
How foolish of me to anticipate a horror film released in February.