EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
The plot suggests a blend of Francis Ford Coppolas immensely underrated surveillance thriller The Conversation (1974) and Black Widow (1986), which featured Theresa Russell as a wig-changing, cold-blooded husband-murderer. If Eye of the Beholder has stayed on the path its plot suggests, it could have been passably compulsive instead we end up with a thriller that seems to have no clear idea what it wants to do and ends up as a mishmash of pretensions and loose plot ends. The story frequently makes little sense. One annoying plot device is having the central characters daughter turn up as an imaginary character with whom he keeps having conversations. It is an effect that, having sat through such phantom figures as Brad Pitt in Fight Club (1999) and Dustin Hoffman in The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999) in the months just before Eye of the Beholder came out, has become tiresome, despite occasional visual cleverness to the appearances. Most irritating is the casual disregard with which the character is dropped after being built up as a running character she suddenly announces If you go, I wont be coming back and we never see her again just like that.
The characters are laughably one-dimensional. Director Stephan Elliott offers up a brief childhood flashback about Ashley Judds character spending Christmas Eve with her father in a back alley as psychological motivation but what exactly this has to do with Ashley Judd being a serial killer and shrieking Merry Christmas, Daddy every time she kills somebody is anybodys guess. And then there is the abrupt non-ending where she crashes in a car, Ewan MacGregor rescues her and they lie conciling in the snow with the supposition left hanging that they will live happily ever after, despite the fact that just five minutes before she tried to shoot him. A good deal of this made more sense in Marc Behms 1980 novel there the character of The Eye was a lonely middle-aged man missing his wife and daughter who came to believe that the female serial killer he was pursuing might be his daughter. This makes far more sense in terms of character and the recurring father/daughter symbolism. Of course, the characters have been rewritten in favour of the box-office appeal of young, good-looking leads and this no longer makes sense.
No matter how much Stephan Elliott tries to dress the film up with pseudo-arty trick effects like dissolving from the snow globes that Ewan MacGregor collects for his daughter into city locations Eye of the Beholder is still a trashy B-thriller. As a film, it offers no character insights, no clear direction and purpose, not even the saving grace of the sordid psycho-sexual obsessiveness of a Basic Instinct. Ewan MacGregor is subdued and Ashley Judd lacks any depth these are roles that could have been played by anybody at all. Cowpunk singer and famous Out lesbian k.d. lang makes a terrible acting debut as Ewan MacGregors technical backup.
Director Stephan Elliott previously had the hit of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) and has also made the comedy Welcome to Woop Woop (1997), the British period drama Easy Virtue (2008) and the comedy A Few Best Men (2011). Elliott made an interesting documentary about the making of the film, Killing Priscilla (2000), in which we see in frank and amusing detail his battles in trying to get financing for Eye of the Beholder. If only the film we ended up with had been worth it ...
The film is based on a novel by Marc Behm who had an interestingly varied career that included the script for The Beatles film Help! (1965), Bert I. Gordons The Mad Bomber (1972) and the Golan-Globus slasher film X-Ray/Hospital Massacre (1982).