Eyes of Fire, 1983, USA
Written and Directed by Avery Crounse.
Starring Dennis Liscomb, Guy Boyd, Rebecca Stanley.
A weird Paranormal meets Pilgrim/American colonialism and even Western frontier, artsy genre film mash up.
A summary from IMDb that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface: A preacher is accused of adultery, and he and his followers are chased out of town. They become stranded in an isolated forest, which is haunted by the spirits of long dead Native Americans.
A bit more: A reverend, Will Smythe, and his followers are chased out of town after Smythe is accused of adultery and polygamy. Joined by a rugged woodsman, Marion Dalton, who wants to dissuade his cheating wife from staying with Smythe and repair their broken family (his daughter is one of two young storytellers/voice overs, the only known survivors of the group), the whole group ventures into a valley, where dwells an ancient evil spirit (it is their hope that the Shawnee will not follow them into this valley). As members of the group start to disappear, the witch-bred, insane Leah must discover how to thwart the spirit.
Leah’s character seems most out of place with the rest of the group (she is under the protection of the preacher, Smythe, who seemingly saved her when her mother was burned as a witch) is perfectly suited to this perfectly odd and artsy B-movie and the eventual forest valley setting they eventually find themselves trapped in. She has witches' powers, but also grapples with mental and emotional issues that cripple her ability to socialize normally.
The visual aesthetic first struck me as an 80s made for TV movie, as I suspect that was the budget they were working with, but once the characters and viewers alike fall under the spell of the devil that dwells in the trees, spirits of Native Americans, and whatever else is going on in this “Maljardin,” the more visually striking and artistic images steal the scene.
Only when Fanny awakens from a possibly paranormal-induced coma does the group realize that the Shawnee superstitions about the valley may be founded. On top of this, the orphan girl, seemingly gifted to them by the Shawnee, is much more than she first appeared to be, and the evil spirit of the forest overwhelms them.
It is the artistic handling of the low budget effects to portray supernatural moments that make for the most viscerally beautiful and/or gory scenes. Colour flashes and negative/reversal images portray the spirit world. Mud, swamp, bark and moss make up monster epidermis—sometimes to the point that people are trapped in trees.
This is one of those low budget B-movies that is also more than that—there’s an artist at work here, doing what they can with what they have.
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