From the haunted happenings of Poltergeist to Guillermo Del Toro’s excellent The Devil’s Backbone, children in film have been regular objects of ghostly terror. Two Eyes Staring continues this tradition, with decent results.
Christine’s mother wills her a small mansion that her husband Peter loves, and her daughter Lisa loathes. Peter convinces Christine to move in, but the house, and Christine’s past, are steeped in mystery by Christine’s evasive attitude concerning her mother. As Lisa copes with the move and the subsequent loss of friends, she hears strange noises emanating from the basement. Insert creepy music here.
Without spoiling the film, it does deliver fair horror atmosphere, with the accompanying jump scares that have become a staple of the genre. The relationship between Lisa and Christine is deftly displayed as strained and cold, in comparison to how difficult it is not to smile at the warm relationship between father and daughter. The mother is too interested in work, but dad’s affections come through in his respect and familiar attitude. The establishment of these cold and hot relationships supports the film’s final act – which delivers more than most horror tales.
However, the film’s length blunts its edge. POSSIBLE SPOILER In an effort to firmly establish the reality which is then overturned, it spends laborious amounts of time hitting the same key. SPOILER ALERT OVER In short: The length could have been trimmed to keep taut the flagging tension. Further, the music crowds what could develop into deeper moments of terror; these items undermine the development of atmospheric and psychological creepies. The Sixth Sense did an impressive job of generating mystery, sustaining tension, and horrific scares sprinkled throughout. Two Eyes Staring is almost of that caliber, but not quite.
Even though the film makes some missteps, it’s by no means a bad ride. It leaves you unsettled and your mouth agape with “Holy Sh*t!”-ness, which is more than most films are able to achieve. Just give it some time.