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Eyes Of Crystal
cast: Luigi Lo Cascio, Desislava Tenekedjieva, Simon Andreu, Jose Angel Egido, and Lucia Jimenez

director: Eros Puglielli

107 minutes (18) 2004
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Revolver DVD Region 2 retail
[released 27 February]

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
A combination of police procedural and horror, Eyes Of Crystal (aka: Occhi di cristallo) combines elements of the two genres to huge effect. Lo Cascio stars as Giacomo Amaldi, an Italian police officer charged with investigating a series of seemingly random murders. In each instance the body has been altered after death and in some cases, limbs have been replaced with sections of a Victorian sex doll. At the same time, Amaldi must deal with the discovery that a colleague has an inoperable brain tumour and the growing belief that the tumour is somehow connected to the killer...

Opening with a stunning, kinetic chase sequence that puts it squarely in The French Connection territory, Eyes Of Crystal is a continually surprising film that piles twist after twist on several wild genre changes. At its heart it's a police procedural with Amaldi and his partner doggedly tracking down the killer but there's a lot more going on here as well. The killer is presented in a near-supernatural way at times and this in turn is mixed with some well-handled character moments between Amaldi and his colleagues. Whilst Amaldi is an absolutely off the shelf 'cop on the edge', Lo Cascio plays him with absolute intelligence and a kind of wild energy. In his hands, Amaldi becomes a combination of Martin Riggs and Doctor Who, physically capable, comfortable with violence, brimming with energy and clearly the smartest person in the room.

However, whilst Lo Cascio is the lead here it's director Eros Puglielli who emerges as the star. The film is directed with boundless energy and a subtlety almost unknown in the genre. Character beats are as important as the horror and when the two combine, the film makes for genuinely queasy viewing. The eventual fate of the hospitalised cop is a deeply unsettling sequence and it's far from alone, the film constantly racking up the tension as it speeds towards its conclusion.

Whilst the gore is as abundant as you'd expect from a giallo movie it also serves the plot. There are very specific reasons for everything the killer does, which become more and more important as time goes by and whilst it's far from easy viewing, it at least avoids sensationalism. Italian horror has always been regarded as one of the high standards of the industry and based on this it's easy to see why. Eyes Of Crystal is intelligent, deeply unsettling, unusual and genuinely horrifying. It's a rare treat in a genre often devoid of originality and tension.
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