As a serious horror fan, you've probably found yourself digging through more than your share of micro-budget "home-made" movies. I'm not talking independent in the normal sense; I mean a movie so clearly low-budget that it takes some actual effort to see if there's anything worth watching. A lot of these titles show up by way of A) indie DVD distributors, or B) big studios that'll buy up just about anything that could make for a creepy DVD cover. In most cases these movies really, really stink ... but you keep renting the darn things in the hope of finding some buried treasure.
That's not to say that Five Across the Eyes is "treasure," mind you. Even if you can forgive the low-budget trappings and the generally amateurish acting performances, the flick is still too long for its own good -- and its got way too much high-pitched screaming going on. And yet despite all these shortcomings, I find myself unable to dislike Five Across the Eyes. Heck, I watched the thing over a week ago and I'm still remembering its best scenes and most effective moments.
The plot sounds rather familiar, I'm sure: A group of five teenage girls take a wrong turn late at night, and even up being terrorized by a seriously deranged maniac. You won't find a much more straightforward indie thriller, basically. Ah, but there's a gimmick! The entire movie takes place inside the girls' vehicle: A bulky mini-van that's about to become a moving fortress. Even with the action takes place outside of the van ... the camera stays, offering us some isolation and vaguely audible hints as to what's going on deep in the woods. So it's a gimmick, sure, but if a gimmick works well enough, then I call that cleverness.
The five leads are clearly aspirants at best (or "weekend performers" at worst), and you wouldn't be blamed for actively disliking one or two of the gang, but at its best moments, Five Across the Eyes works alarmingly well. If the film's technical merits are more than a little sketchy, one might say that the grungy look of the flick actually works to its advantage. At the very least, the flick shows a bit more creativity than your normal "forest slasher" misadventure.
Recommended pretty much exclusively to the serious horror spelunkers who are willing to overlook a bunch of low-budget speed bumps, Five Across the Eyes is a flawed and slightly overlong piece of indie horror ... but if I'm still thinking about a horror flick nine days after watching it, that's got to be considered some sort of compliment. Co-directors Greg Swinson and Ryan Thiessen clearly had more passion and creativity than they did money, so here's hoping their debut flick opens some doors (and loosens some purse-strings) for their sophomore effort.
Bottom line: It's definitely worthy of a rental once it hits DVD, but be prepared to be a little patient. There's some real chills to be found in there.