A lonely agoraphobic hacks into the laptop webcams of six beautiful women across the Los Angeles area, tapping into their lives as a compassionate friend from afar. His voyeurism allows him interaction, even if it’s virtually, and to deal with his severe introverted panic attacks brought upon him by an extremely abusive father and an absent mother as a young boy. As he continues to stare at the screen, watching the women’s every move, he becomes convinced that one of the women is drugging, killing, and cannibalizing her one night stands. Trusting his struggling actor and eccentric Youtuber roommate with his secret, too much ambiguity divides their suspicions until the recorded videoclip files of the women’s death show up on the hacker’s computer one-by-one, leaving the hacker vulnerable to possibly someone watching him.
Every time your laptop monitor is in the upright position, you’re face-to-face with the onboard camera reflecting every movement you take and everything that happens in the background. Voyeurism is a powerful drug, a contactless addiction where the depraved eyes crave the lifestyles of others to either stimulate the opiate-secreting pleasure endorphins or for more nefarious reasons, such as obtaining sensitive information that can be used for blackmail or theft. “Eye Without A Face” represents that all-seeing laptop camera lens peering into what should be a private space, quietly invading without making a sound, and possibly turning into the big brother you never wanted. Ramin Niami’s written and director voyeuristic thriller plays into that unobstructed power over someone by an antisocial hermit and the more that hermit stays reclusive in his shell the more he feeds into his feed of women, becoming more delusional in his attachment for them. The L.A. shot thriller is a production of the Iranian-born filmmaker’s Sideshow Films with leads Dakota Shapiro and Luke Cook co-executive producing alongside Karen Robsen and Somme Sahab.
Playing the agoraphobic, voyeuristic, hacker Henry is Dakota Shapiro making his feature film debut. Henry on paper sounds like an oily and unscrupulous lowlife unable to fit as a piece inside society’s puzzle as he watches women from the comforts of his untidied home and unwashed sweatpants. Niami saw Henry on the contrary as an abused loner seizing at the thought of being out in the world, being around people, and finding comfort incognito with being these women guardian angel. Henry is empathetic, modest during more private acts, and speaks to them like an equal in a guiding, positive voice without a hint of aggression. Dakota Shapiro accentuates Henry’s unthreatening existence with dopey eyes and a lethargic posture. Shapiro’s decelerates so slowly that he makes Luke Cook appear like Speedy Gonzales. “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” actor is Henry’s house tenant, Eric, an aspiration Aussie actor trying to land a gig, any gig, in Hollywood and his influencer status is an obsession in itself as he garnishes followers for his own path toward Tinseltown stardom. Eric’s intense self-arrogance can be a put off, but he’s oddly chumming with Henry even after Henry lets him in on his little watcher setup, buying his landlord breakfast nearly every morning, providing him drugs, advising him to stop taking prescription drugs, and trying to find a crack in Henry’s impervious shell as if it was a personal challenge extended to him undertake. Their relationship is night and day, hot and cold, and often splashed with awkward friction with Cook laying on the thick, goofy charm with great attention; yet despite Eric’s knack to have money for everything else but Henry’s rent, the struggling actor eagerly wants to befriend Henry in who might be considered Eric’s only friend as sad as that might sound. All of Henry’s other friends are unaware their performing for the all seeing webcam eye as the cast rounds out with Vlada Vereko, Rebecca Berg, Ashley Elyse Rogers, Evangeline Neuhart, Sarah Marie, Danielle Hope Abrom, and Shekaya Sky McCarthy.
There’s more to “Eye Without A Face” than what meets the…uh, well…eye. While the voyeurism isn’t sexually gratifying but the act itself certainly a core aspect, the blatancy of it is more a distraction to what’s really being conveyed by Niami’s script that’s more aligned with “Henry: A Portrait of a Serial Killer” as the film exhibits key homages to the Michael Rooker starring and John McNaughton directed film. Henry falls into the hazards of a blackhole by becoming entangled in a web of women, drugs, and mental illness without almost never leaving his chair. Eric unintentionally perpetuates Henry’s reasoning for deviating from his straightened arrow path and constant routine. In all fairness, that arrow was already severely bowed and wavy at best as the 30-something-year-old has more than definitely broken a few federal and local laws by spying on women through their hacked webcams. Between the nightmares of an abusive father, memories recalled at Eric’s prying, and being fed the disillusion that the medication he’s taken for years is a figment of a society system trying to control him, Henry has to choose to stick with his current reality or try to be something more than a slug in his inherited home, going as far as to calling into one of the girl’s Onlyfans type website and striking up more of a branded I-am-a-stalker conversation than clearly expressing interest in just casual conversation that sends her into a panic defense mode. From there, “Eye Without A Face” nearly resembles a theme of anti-confidence resulting in Henry blowing up his quaint and satisfying lifestyle when reaching for a little more that ends with disastrous consequences and becomes woke to his triggering of quelled past. The surprise twist fails to hold water, making no splash when easily discerned, as it’s slathered way too thin and too revealing around Henry’s anxiety-riddled and panicked life.
The invasion of privacy leaves chills with an overwhelming uncomfortable take on the voyeur thriller while the shocking twist kicks around an underwhelming subplot too easy to spot in Ramin Niami’s “Eye Without A Face,” released on U.S. DVD on August 10th from Gravitas Ventures and on UK digital this coming Monday, August 23rd from Miracle Media. The region free Gravitas Ventures DVD is presented in a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio on a DVD5 and is displayed with a healthy serving of natural digitally recorded coloring that only strays toward a yellow-mustard tint more noticeably whenever Henry dips into a tense or distressed state. The cinematography is the debut feature film work of Sideshow Films’ Tara Violet who has clever POV shots of characters in front of the camera and characters sitting in front of another camera while acting their individual personalities by a high resolution webcam. Among using different types of distortions to render Henry’s mindset, Violet also takes a page out of Terry Gilliam with a wide-angle lens and touch of a Dutch angle to compound the crazy factor. The Dolby Digital English language 5.1 surround on has prominent dialogue unimpeded by shoddy equipment or mic placement that renders good sound design with passable range and depth, especially during webcam dialogue and other miscellaneous sounds. DVD lacks special features aside from a static menu and, obviously, digital releases don’t usually come with any extras well. No bonus scenes during or after the credits. Despite some elements extracted respectfully from inspired classics, “Eye Without A Face” shares a troubling angle on creepy in a digital world and the calamitous ill-effects of ill-advised help that’s no more useful than saying to an uptight person with an anxiety disorder, “you just got to relax.”