Judge Daryl Loomis had no idea itchy eyes were so dangerous.
PCP? A masked killer? People killing themselves in creative and disgusting ways? Pink Eye is the kind of low budget horror film that makes fans of schlock cheer. Despite, or because of, some plotting confusions, this film should quickly find a cult audience.
Facts of the Case
At an experimental mental hospital, a doctor performs bizarre experiments on his patients with a derivation of PCP, turning them either suicidal or homicidal. Their most dangerous case, the deformed and hyper-intelligent Edgar (Joshua James, One Way) who loves to quote Poe, escapes the institution after killing an orderly to go to town and find some fresh victims. A new family has just arrived in town. One of them reminds Edgar of his sweet Lenore. Can his obsession with this woman tame the beast inside?
What begins as insane asylum exploitation quickly becomes director James Tuckers's (Skinned Alive) entry into the unstoppable masked killer genre. While he shows some skill at both, he clearly has a better handle on the former than the latter. Something is happening to the inmates in the hospital that cause them to drasticallly harm themselves. In these scenes, the gore really flies. In one, a woman sees ants behind her eyes so, to get the bugs out, she tears her face apart, removing her own eyes. In another, an anorexic woman is berating her fat self in the mirror before smashing it and using the broken glass to cut the "fat" from her stomach. These scenes, among others that occur in the hospital, are effectively disgusting with great special effects, especially given the film's budget. They are violent enough to turn weak stomachs while convincing enough for people who have seen it all to keep from rolling their eyes, if only out of fear that there might be ants up there. When we're out of the asylum, however, the kills are surprisingly understated.
In more ways than this, Pink Eye feels like two movies jammed together. We find out early on that this is no ordinary asylum and there is a strange conspiracy going on. Once Edgar escapes from the hospital, however, Tucker virtually abandons this threat until the very confusing ending for the story of the family. This part has surprisingly good writing and performances that go along well with the relatively tame killings, but this goes in direct contrast to the schlocky gore-fest at the beginning and, eventually, when they return to the hospital. Tucker really does do both parts well, especially given the budget , but can't fit the parts together on any level. Tucker acknowledges as much in his commentary, discussing how and why the story doesn't make any sense. As a result of a complete depletion of funds, he couldn't film another scene so edited it as best he could and released it. While I appreciate the disclosure, it doesn't change the fact that, if you're looking for story coherence, you will not find it in Pink Eye. Those hunting down buckets of gore delivered in odd ways will be in luck however, because this film has it in spades.
The performances and writing are significantly better than I expected, especially from Melissa Bacelar (Addiction) playing the female lead and Joshua James as the killer. Bacelar comes across as a completely average, everyday girl who genuinely appears to care about her family. Her performance is especially good given her Scream Show program that is provided as an extra on the disc. In this, she is the complete, unabashed horror vamp a la Elvira, complete with fetish gear, fangs, and a zombie she pretends to have sex with. These are very, very different characters. Joshua James, who sadly died shortly after production, is an excellent villain who, though behind a mask, is an eloquent, intelligent psycho. His performance carries shades of Doug Bradley's performances as Pinhead and Boris Karloff's legendary monster with a huge, intimidating presence all his own.
Halo 8 has done its usual good job with another low budget release. The image and sound are not perfect, but good for what they had to work with. There are some errors in the transfer, but it is generally very clear with good color balance. The sound is on par with the image: good clarity and mixing for the dialog, sound effects, and the excellent, Theremin-filled score. For extras, we have James Tucker's informative and honest commentary that explains issues with the locations, actors, and budgetary limitations. Two episodes of Bacelar's Scream Show finish off the disc.
While Pink Eye is far from a perfect film, it shows surprising creativity in its death scenes and some decent storytelling, especially given its budget. Good work from all involved for maximizing the film's enjoyment and muting what are significant monetary limitations.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Halo Eight
• Commentary from director James Tucker
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