It All Happens In The Dark

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My wittle eye.

Anguish (1987)

The movie opens with a voice-over telling us that “medical service is provided free of charge” in the lobby “on presenting your ticket stub. Oxygen masks are available. And during the film don’t speak to anyone you don’t know.” Is William Castle behind all this?

OK, no, I think it is Fulci. There is more eye shit going on here than at an Optometrist convention. Eye surgery, contact insertions, a collection of rare eyeballs in jars, a metronome with an image of an eye attached to the pendulum.

John Pressman (Michael Lerner) is an intern at an eye clinic, though his mother Alice (Zelda Rubinstein) labors under the delusion that he is an eye surgeon. He is also diabetic and losing his sight. And both he and his mother are batshit crazy. His mother hypnotizes him by playing a record and saying “And now you must start thinking of the spiral. The spiral that is coming into your head.” What is this Uzumaki?

His mother sends him out to kill people and cut out their eyes because… well, I’m not entirely sure why.

Zelda is out of control in this. She can apparently hear what is going on at the eye clinic by listening to a seashell, and when she gets a call (on the phone, not the seashell) from the eye clinic informing her that her son has lost his job, she puts the phone to her breast and hisses “EYYYEEEEEES!”

The camera pulls back from the action on screen and we see that is really is on screen. We are in a movie theater, and everything that we have just seen is part of the film that is being shown called The Mommy. We are introduced to two young girls in the audience – Patty (Talia Paul) and Linda (Clara Pastor). Patty is not enjoying the film at all and wants to leave. Her friend is all “Come on this is fun, he’s an eye hunter!” Patty says she feels dizzy and that her eyes are irritated.

Back onscreen Alice tells John that he has been fired and she exclaims “All of the eyes of the city will be ours!”

Back in the movie theater, Patty notices a creepy looking guy who seems to be having trouble with his eyes, too.

In the movie, Zelda is hypnotizing John again and saying weirdness about “Mommy’s elevator” and “You want to go back don’t you? Mommy will open her door.”

At this point the whole audience seems to be in some sort of trance.

The killer in The Mommy shows up at a movie theater (hmmm) to procure more eyes. (No, it isn’t the theater showing The Mommy that he goes to – though that would be all kinds of meta cool. He is at a showing of The Lost World.)

Patty can’t take it anymore and says she’s leaving. Linda doesn’t want to. Patty goes out of the theater and into the lobby. She doesn’t look too hot. She makes her way into the bathroom where she hears The Mommy talking to her. “Your eyes are my eyes, your hands are my hands.” Patty goes into one of the stalls and someone who sounds like a man enters the stall next to her. Patty is sure that it is that creepy guy. She gets freaked out and runs back into the theater where she tells Linda that A MAN IS IN THE WOMEN’S bathroom! Patty begs Linda to go and check it out, and Linda finally agrees but says she is never EVER going to a movie with Patty again and Patty has to stay behind so she can tell Linda what she missed.

Linda goes into the bathroom and sees that the man Patty was so frightened of is just a MANLY woMAN.

Someone in the “real life” theater shoots the lady at the concession stand and then the ticket taker.

When Linda comes out of the bathroom she sees the creepy looking guy dragging one of the bodies across the lobby. Linda manages to escape and goes to get help.

The creepy looking guy has tied the theater doors shut from the outside and is back inside, where he proceeds to hold Patty at gunpoint.

Things in the theater are mirroring the movie – the creepy guy has seen the film a bunch of times and thinks that Alice is his mother, and when John disobeys her in the film, he can’t believe it because creepy guy loves Alice and wants her to be his mommy.

The creepy (I guess I can upgrade it to “crazy” now) guy is shooting people in the theatre, dragging Patty along with him, and announces, “I can’t leave until mother comes to get me!” Finally the police arrive… just as a helicopter crashes through the ceiling. Just kidding! The authorities think the dude is a real weirdo and are pretty sure it will be impossible to negotiate with him. The killer is all, “I don’t want to hurt anyone… this gun just makes me feel pretty.” A sniper in the projection booth takes out the “real life” killer, the theater doors are opened and everyone is instructed to form a neat and orderly line and their tickets will be refunded. Patty is still at the front of the theater where the killer took her, face to face with the screen. John in the film turns to Patty and says “I want your eyes too!” and throw his scalpel, which flies off the screen and into Patty’s eye. What?!

It turns out she was just losing it and there is nothing in her eye. She wakes up in the hospital and Linda is by her side, apologizing for not believing her. Patty’s parents are there as well. She’ll be just fine, she just needs a couple days of recovery, etc. etc.

Linda has to leave so Patty can get some rest. In the elevator someone with a scalpel grabs Linda. Now this someone is heading for Patty’s room, pushing a medical cart. And it is the eye hunter! John himself. He says to Patty: “Like the doctor says I’m all in your imagination. I really don’t exist.” Patty is too scared to scream as he leans over her and uses a retinoscope to examine her eyes. Awww, he found himself a new job!

This one is super weird. It started out so slam bang well and I was all kid-in-a-candy-store happy wondering where they were going to take it. Sadly is just degenerates into standard thriller fare and loses steam as soon as they introduce the “real life” killer in the theater. I was hoping there would be something more – they tease us with all that subliminal message stuff, and the group hypnosis of the audience and then do nothing with it. There was so much promise in the opening scenes and it is a disappointment that it all just boils down to a hostage situation.

The end credits play on a movie screen in a darkened theater, and we see the patrons getting up and filing out, with one lone soul remaining to watch them. That was a nice final touch.

Anguish is currently being remade by Ghost House Pictures with a script by Jake Wade Wall who updated When a Stranger Calls in 2006. C+


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