"Are you suggesting there is a link between Professor Millet's research and these barbaric murders??"
The director of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang may seem like an unusual choice to director an 80s slasher movie, but, despite what you may have read about Terror Eyes, it’s a creepy, nasty and effective film, more influenced by the Italian giallo genre than the likes of Friday the 13th and Halloween. Cinematography by Mark Irwin and a score from Brad Fiedel betray the fact that a little more care than usual was lavished on this film in comparison to some of the cheap knock offs that appeared in the early 80's.
The film begins at the Jack and Jill Children's Day Care Centre (sensibly named compared to the "Sticky Fingers" nursery that exists down the road from this reviewer....). Miss Baron, a teacher at said establishment has finished school for the evening and is having a quiet moment sat on the roundabout in the schools playground. A leather clad motorcyclist pops up from nowhere, and gives her a spin on the roundabout. This playful act is made somewhat more menacing by the fact that he is waving a huge curved blade around in one hand, and once a reasonable speed is achieved he summarily dispatches the poor teacher and dumps her head in a barrel of water
The giallo connection first raises its head here as the killers outfit is identical to the one used by the murderer in Strip Nude for Your Killer, and the link is made even stronger when Lieutenant Andrews, the Detective on the case arrives. He is played by Drew Snyder, and is a dead-ringer for George Hilton, the lead of a number of giallo in the 70's.He is accompanied by his sidekick Taj, an Armenian detective who wins the award hands down for "most annoying secondary character in an 80's slasher movie". Seriously, this practical joker is so annoying, makes so many inappropriate comments and pulls a stunt at the end that should have ended up with him receiving a bullet between his eyes that you wish the killer would change their M.O. just to decapitate this annoying fucker and leave his head in a bucket of water.
After investigating the victim’s background, Austin and Taj rock up at Wendell College, and pay a visit to Professor Wendell's night school anthropology class (I'm impressed that this college seems to hold classes that finish at two in the morning). The professor is obviously having a dabble with one of his students Kim, and he is somewhat put out when Miss Adaji (Rachel Ward) appears in the room and gives him a look that could kill from 100 paces. Miss Adaji goes for a coffee in the local cafe, and is creeped out by an odd bug eyed waiter who proceeds to follow her home after his shift finishes. Miss Adaji is terrified, but makes it home in one piece to do what any self-respecting 80's horror heroine would do-strips off to her see through white underwear before creeping around the apartment. In a psycho shower scene knock-off, Professor Millett turns up and the pervy prof and his research assistant strip off and smear red paint over each other in the shower. Me and the missus tried this, but swiftly realised we should have used water based paint rather than emulsion.....
The editor will be pleased to note as per his query that no body double was used in this scene, and Miss Ward's backside is on display throughout.
Student Kim has a job feeding fish in the local aquarium. Our psychotic Hell's Angel turns up again and chases her around the changing room with the huge blade, all the while slashing at her body and redecorating the walls with the brightest red blood I've ever seen in a film, before decapitating the unfortunate young girl.
The detectives turn up, and Taj says "Ah, the old head in the fish tank routine..."- I assume cases like this are pretty routine in that hotbed of crime Boston....
He then expounds the theory "Maybe the killer’s a sailor and he thought she was a mermaid". No wonder Boston has such a low crime rate.
A third student, Kathy has been dumped by the professor, and the school principal Miss Baron tells her that the professor is a disgrace. She then decides that the only way to make the jilted young teen feel better is for her to stay over at her house for a steamy lesbian session. I would suggest that the staff at this school need to take an ethics course post haste. To be honest, the identity of the killer is already pretty obvious and short of handing out business cards saying "Hello-I'm the killer" no more clues are required for even the most dimwitted of viewers. Professor Millett flirts with a waitress in the cafe. The next day the chef turns up and serves up stew to two of the locals (who both look like they could do with a lower fat diet than the one available at this questionable eatery). The stew is full of hair, and of course the waitresses head is discovered in the sink.
The intrepid detectives track down the creepy waiter to his rundown apartment. His bedroom contains pictures of women. Taj says "This must be his summer place" They cart the red herring off to jail, but of course the murders continue.
Back to the Principle's lesbian love den, the killer turns up and attacks and kills the dubious academic in the bedroom. The student wakes up and finds a head in the toilet bowl, and is swiftly dispatched by the psycho motorcyclist, in a jump scare straight out of What Have They Done to Your Daughters.
The detectives have somehow managed to close the net on the killer, and a really exciting chase unfolds before in a not-too-shocking twist the "killer" is decapitated.
Job done, Lieutenant Austin gets into his car only to have the killer pop up in the back seat and wave the huge knife if a threatening manner. Phew, it’s just the lovable Taj playing a prank on his friend-"Who did you expect, the Headhunter?” Seriously, after watching this prick in action I will never eat in an Armenian restaurant again just in case one of the waiters tries the "old head in the fish tank routine"
Terror Eyes is a well shot horror movie, which if you'll pardon the pun, is head and shoulders above many similar films from the era. It's quite nasty, contains a number of effective stalk and slash sequences, and while never over the top in its gore scenes would probably still receive an 18 certificate in the UK simply because of its somewhat mean spirited atmosphere. I saw this at the cinema on its initial release, and as far as I'm aware it’s never received an official DVD release. Its recently popped up as a Warner Archive release (under it's U.S. title, Night School), and is available on demand in the States. The print isn't bad at all, so it’s well worth picking up until an official release appears.