Waking in the night and unable to get back to sleep despite the warmth of his room in the winter night, the fire blazing and the luxurious patterned covers tucked tightly around him, journalist Eugène Darancourt instead occupies his mind with work, responding to emails pertaining to the investigation he is engaged in, entering its final stages and with the resulting court case pending, before finally returning to bed to try once again to sleep.
Instead, his mind is assaulted: conscious of something in the room with him, a shadow which shouldn’t be there, a shape with eyes which shifts and melts into the darkness when he tries to focus on it, the black shaped thing glistens as it slides down walls and across the floor towards him, pinning him to the bed and dragging him under the sheets.
Writer and director Alexis Bruchon’s second film, The Eyes Below (Les Yeux Dessous) is as minimalist in execution as his first, 2020’s The Woman with Leopard Shoes (La Femme aux Chaussures Leopard), again focused on a lone character in a single confined location, Vinicius Coelho’s tortured insomniac Eugène, yet orchestrating maximum sensation from that simple and apparently restrictive premise.
A product of Eugène’s overworked mind expressing itself as night terrors, it must be his imagination, triggered by his interests in mythology and folklore, his extensive library of such arrayed around his bed alongside his volumes on art, for what else can it be, this black, oily corruption which persists to haunt and torture him in the darkness?
The Eyes Below a largely abstract film of equally amorphous horror set against a cacophonous soundscape of rising dread, indescribable in terms other than how it feels to be its victim, Pauline Morel is the unnameable shape which rises from the shadows then sinks back into invisibility, luring Eugène to explore the deeper crevices of his bed for his lost phone, a lifeline to reality, sanity and safety just out of reach.
Falling to the bottom of a crevasse where the sheer walls are a valley of billowing red sheets, a netherworld of shadow, the dreamworld offers no sanctuary, Bruchon creating a shifting space like the moving hand under the blanket toying with the cat above who waits to pounce, The Eyes Below always watching but neither hunter nor hunted communicating other than through their confrontations, any answers confined to the interpretation of the observer.
The Eyes Below is currently playing the festival circuit