Monday, 18 February 2013

Close Your Eyes

Director: David Lilley
Writer: David Lilley
Producers: David Lilley, Kevin Norcross
Cast: Jennifer Evans, Nick Ewans, Phil Smeeton
Country: UK
Year of release: 2005
Reviewed from: screener DVD

This enjoyable 12-minute vampire film from director Dave Lilley (God’s Desk) is an exercise in lighting as much as anything. He cuts between two stories, both shot in very low light, and distinctively coloured (presumably digitally) almost to the point of looking like an old tinted movie.

A middle-aged, middle-class couple (Nick Ewans and Annie Walker) arrive at a holiday cottage with their two daughters. With the kids in bed, they snuggle in front of the telly but a curious sound prompts a possibly unwise investigation. In the second story, three young people (Jennifer Evans, Phil Smeeton and Nina Reizi) prowl an old building, hunting something which is also hunting them. The family scenes are yellowish-orange, the trio’s scenes are greenish-blue. Ace DP Simon Fretwell (Slipping) does a bravura job on what must be one of the darkest (literally) films I have ever seen.

How are the stories connected? Are they happening at the same time and/or the same place? With such a short running time, it would be unfair to spoil the story by giving any further details, but it does raise an interesting idea and there is a certain amount of bloody violence, the two basic criteria on which any horror movie must be judged. When the vampires appear, they fly through the air, eyes glowing, suggesting a Hong Kong influence.

Close Your Eyes features an all-star cast, at least for this sort of thing, bringing together Nick Ewans, who was in both Shaun of the Dead (as the ‘pyjama zombie’) and 28 Days Later; Jenny Evans, who played Cat in Evil Aliens; and singer/songwriter Phil Smeeton who was one of the Angel gang in Judge Dredd and has also been in episodes of Randall and Hopkirk, The Last Train and, um, Crime Traveller. Greek model Zoi Stamkou (Dangerous Twins, Happy Halloween) provided the makeup effects while digital effects are credited to Stephen Gray. There isn’t a great deal of dialogue, apart from one scene, but the sound (courtesy of Grant Bridgeman) is clear. Ed Earl’s music doesn’t really register, sadly, behind the action but it can be enjoyed separately accompanying a stills gallery on this screener disc.

The low light levels do cause a certain amount of uncertainty about what is what but they also help to disguise a crucial plot point until the reveal. There are one or two oddities, such as Nina Reizi’s character’s inability to speak English, which are never explained, and there is a slight tendency for characters to come back from the dead (not just the vampires). But as a taut, atmospheric vampire chiller, Close Your Eyes scores.

The accompanying stills gallery includes some shots from an alternative ending although this is not included on the disc.

MJS rating: B+
review originally posted 5th March 2006


  1. Hi there. I was the stills photographer on this film (I think that's one of my pics you have on here, unless it's a screen cap from the film) and thought I'd clarify the lighting ("presumably digitally") for you... there were blue and yellow "filters" on the lights on locations (making it a swine for a very new photographer to come to grips with at times btw).
    It was a fantastic project to work on with the loveliest cast and crew, and it was so much fun! Well, except for me being terrified of the likelihood of spiders in the dingy basement lol. I have such great memories of that shoot.
    I found your review after being unable to find my copy of it (sadly I think it must have been on a van which was stolen when I was moving home a couple of years after the shoot) and started looking to see if it was online anywhere.
    All the best,
    Alli :-)

  2. sorry - that should say after I couldn't find my copy of the dvd, not just "it" ... makes it sound like I was looking for your review as it is lol