Five Across the Eyes (2006)
By: J.R. Gregory on July 15, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Accent Underground (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 95 minutes
The Movie
Directors: Greg Swinson & Ryan Thiesson
Starring: Jennifer Barnett, Angela Brunda, Danielle Lilley, Sandra Paduch, Mia Yi, Veronica Garcia
Screenplay: Greg Swinson
Country: USA
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Independent horror cinema has a long tradition in America. Forced to operate outside of the mainstream, many filmmakers resorted to giving the audience the kind of thrills that Hollywood would never dream of producing. Can anyone seriously believe a major studio would ever have given backing to Herschell Gordon Lewis? I don't think so. Consequently, it is within this milieu that many delights can be found by those who are willing to look. This is where Five Across the Eyes has sprung from (the title being a slang term that refers to a slap across the face according to but does it live up to this tradition?

The story concerns five teenage girls making their way home from a football game late one night. In trying a different way home they become lost and ask for directions at a store. The girls become involved in a minor accident with another vehicle, and, panicking somewhat, they decide to leave the scene. A short time later they see the other car coming behind them, and the girls soon realise that merely exchanging details is not on the other driver's mind. So begins a tension-filled night, where the driver of the other car begins assault after vicious assault on the girls.

This is not a bad film, but I was left disappointed overall. There are some undeniably tense moments, such as when one character is hiding in the car and listening to the assault on one of her fellow travellers. She can only hear her friend's screams and the expression on the hiding girl's face as she tries not to scream is haunting. The atmosphere is similarly tense, as the action is played out almost exclusively from within the girls' car, giving a palpable sense of claustrophobia that is enhanced by the dark country roads that surround them. Another subtlety that escapes immediate attention is the fact that the film plays out in real time.

Against these positives are some concerns. The first one refers to the fact that the film is played out from within the girls' car. This starts to grate after a short while as you realise that this is all that is on offer. What was originally seen to be clever traps the narrative, backing the filmmakers into a corner, so that whenever the film threatens to break loose, it remains trapped by its own gimmick. The consequent camerawork becomes increasingly annoying, spinning around the centre of the car in some sort of handheld nightmare, and there were a number of times where I lost track of what was going on and to whom. This results in its being a huge distraction from the film, lessening the intended impact of the film makers.

After getting through the gimmick of the car-based camera, the other shortcomings become that much more apparent. The make-up effects are very low-budget, and for all the promise of violence, the majority of it happens off-screen or just out of shot. Another is the girls themselves, none of whom are given any depth beyond the usual stereotypes, so that you feel next to nothing when the attacks come. Plus with five young women in jeopardy, you would hope for some skin but there is next to nothing showing on this front either. The overall feeling is that the movie drags, that it has taken an idea and tried to stretch it out. As difficult as it can be, this would have benefited from some tighter scripting and cutting of certain sequences. For my money, when you are making an independent horror film, there needs to be that something extra to grab the audience, and this does not have it.
The film, presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement, is very dark and murky mostly, the result of the lighting-or lack of-used by the directors. Definitely not unwatchable but can be a challenge to easily discern what is going on at times. About half the film is shot on location and the rest was shot in a blacked-out garage.
Presented in Stereo only. Muddled in places and hard to follow who is saying what occasionally, but generally clear. The soundtrack is an interesting mix of pseudo-techno and death metal. Most of these were written by friends of the directors except one by a Swedish death metal outfit who donated the song for free.  
Extra Features
For an independent feature, Accent Underground has come up with a decent amount of extra material. We have a Director's Commentary, featuring Greg Swinson and Ryan Thiesson giving us insights into how they came up with this, the inspiration for that, how tight the shooting schedule was, etc. They also provide an alternate meaning for the title, namely that there are five girls lost in an area called the Eyes, hence Five Across the Eyes. The two of them come across as earnest young guys who enjoy making movies.

Then there is a Behind the Scenes feature (20 minutes approx.), showing the rehearsal of some of the scenes, the inevitable police visit during location shooting, and people goofing around and making stupid faces for the camera.
There are four deleted scenes included on the disc. There is some extra gore and torture sequences on offer that would have drawn out the ending considerably.

The disc has previews for other Accent titles, The Living and the Dead, Demons Among Us, Three Extremes 2, Lost Things, Dumplings, Pure and Five Across the Eyes.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
While there are some clever and tense moments in Five Across the Eyes, it is insufficient to sustain the film as a whole. Having a clever idea or gimmick can sometimes work, but in this instance it just annoys the audience and limits the story's potential. With some cutting and focusing more on the action, this could have some potential as a sharp and brutal movie. However, as it stands, Five Across the Eyes drags and gets bogged down so that when the ending comes, the audience is no longer engaged enough to care.

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