Eyes in the Dark (US-2009) is a new independent film that is banking on the ongoing attraction of the first-person POV hand-held style popularised in recent times by the extraordinary success of The Blair Witch Project, [Rec] and Paranormal Activity. Judging on the footage so far released, the film may be giving it a good shot.
A group of college co-eds take a trip to a mountain lodge looking for relaxation, beer, and maybe a dip in the hot tub. But when they stumble on clues about an ancient legend, they quickly find themselves fighting for their lives. Will they be able to escape this unspeakable evil? And are they the only ones who have ever crossed its path?
Made by Emerald City Pictures and director Bjorn Anderson, Eyes in the Dark is an independent film that chronicles the end-game moments of a group of college co-eds on a weekend cabin getaway in the Washington State Cascade foothills.
Eyes in the Dark combines the characters’ compulsive self-documentation and laid-back humor with the raw terror they uncover after crossing paths with an ancient evil. The filmmakers blended the improvisational talents of the actors with beautiful but brooding locations to create a vision that plays on the fear of the unknown. Set in a fictionalized area of the Cascade Range with a long history of legends and mysterious disappearances, the film quickly transports the audience to a place of excitement and terror. (Press release)
The film runs the conceit that the spliced-together footage was found in secret FBI archives (X files, no doubt), having been hidden away by a government fearful that the truth behind unexplained disappearances in the Pacific Northwest wilderness would be a national security risk. They know, as the characters and we the audience find out, that a dangerous, presumably supernatural presence inhabits the area. Not an unfamiliar scenario, but one that’s a pretty good starting point. It’s what comes next that will determine the film’s success.
Below: Lacy (Melissa Goad) feels like she’s being watched
Like many classic horror stories before it (such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, for example), Eyes in the Dark had its origin in a dream, according to Anderson:
I woke up in a terrified sweat one early morning in September of 2007. This was like numerous other mornings following my nightmares. Particularly one dream I had been having for several years. The settings changed occasionally but never the overall fear that accompanied it. I was always in the woods, in my house, or in some remote area being hunted by something, something just out of the vision of my eyes in the dark. Occasionally I would get a fleeting glance of a large tuft of fur and red eyes before I would turn and begin to run. The dreams would always end with me trapped, surrounded in the middle of nowhere by dark shadows of monsters and red eyes. It was these red eyes that would be the last things I saw before I woke up. I decided to take a cathartic approach to dealing with my dreams so I began to write the outline of what would later become the script to Eyes in the Dark.
But it was J.J. Abrams’ effective take on the giant monster genre that governed the style of the film:
Originally the film was going to be shot in the traditional horror style, with multiple cameras, lighting, etc. But when I saw Cloverfield in early 2008 I was struck with the amount of energy the first person point-of-view camera style brought with it. I immediately knew that the POV style of camera movement would be the way to go for creating the right amount of energy and audience involvement.
The Production had the inauspicious beginning that all independent films on a shoestring budget have. About a week before production began, a lead actress dropped out, the production had to overcome logistical nightmares in transportation and booking the Ski-lodge, and all of the footage had to be shot in four weekends to accommodate everyone’s schedules, and to top it all off we began shooting on Friday the 13th. Somehow it was all pulled off no doubt due to everyone pitching in together and figuring out a thousand different problems at once. (Press release)
But there’s a nice addendum to the strain imposed by filming under difficulties. “Having such a great cast and crew allowed me to bring my nightmares to life,” commented Anderson, “and in turn, my cathartic approach seems to have worked because for the last year and a half I have yet to have the nightmare of being chased by those Eyes in the Dark.”
- Shooting format: Sony HDV 1440 x 1080i
- Exhibit format: HDCAM, DVD
- Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
- running time: 78 minutes
- Sound mix: Stereo
- Production Company: Emerald City Pictures, LLC.
- Production Team: Directed by Bjorn Anderson; Produced by Mike Ash; Associate Producers Marco Scaringi, Robyn Scaringi and Joseph Cole; Executive Producer Bjorn Anderson; Cinematography by Joseph Cole; Written by Bjorn Anderson; Edited by Robyn Scaringi.
- Starring Wayne Bastrup, Melissa Goad, John Symonds, Maureen Francisco, Telisa Steen, Melinda Ausserer, Jason Robison, Paul Eenhoorn, Ernie Joseph, Mike Ash, Christine Umayam, and Charlie Sims, among others. “The Beast” is played by Marco Scaringi.
Note: A colour-corrected version of the trailer is available on the IMDb.