Close Your Eyes

Dr. Michael Strother has a small practice in London, where he helps people to quit smoking, with a soothing calm voice which helps to create a powerful image in the client’s mind. For most of Michael’s other patients, it’s a simple matter of the difference between a clean forest and lake and a dirty nature reserve. However, Police Officer Janet Losey (Shirley Henderson) has an unexpected extra in her vision: a young girl drowning under the lake’s surface. What disturbs Janet about this is, when she asks Michael an innocent question about her treatment, he answers “Forget about the girl.” Sensing he might be able to assist her with her current case, Janet asks the doctor to meet Heather, the young girl in her vision and the most recent target of a sadistic killer, who was able to escape but was left extremely emotionally scarred and unable to speak. At first apprehensive, Michael finally agrees to see the young girl. After a few moments under hypnosis, Michael gets Heather to talk, only she speaks nonsense. Curious to know more, Michael steals the tape Janet made of the impromptu session.

Slowly, and much against the protestations of his pregnant wife Clara (Miranda Otto), who tries in vain to remind him why they had recently moved to England, Michael begins to get more involved in the case, trying to crack the mysteries of Heather’s words, and accompanying Janet to interview Elliot (Paddy Considine), the owner of a gaming shop who considers himself an expert of mysterious religions. Distinguishing the symbols on Heather’s arms and the supposed nonsense on the tape as ancient liturgies, Elliot suggests they read the works of Professor Catherine Lebourg, especially in relation to a 16th Century pious activist who was burned at the stake.

After the discovery of a potential crime scene in the basement of a church, Michael and Janet feel themselves getting closer to figuring out the secrets of the killer’s modus operandi. What they don’t realize is that the killer has figured them out, taking Elliot out of the picture in a grisly fashion before kidnapping Heather once again. Michael acts on a hunch, and ends up getting captured by the killer, where his final plan is revealed.

Unlike many thrillers made today, “Close Your Eyes” uses a measured balance of suspense and shock, building tension through mood, then slamming the viewer with a particularly gruesome jolt. There are several sequences which will likely make even the most jaded horror aficionado fidget uncomfortably in their seat. Lacking a sizeable budget, writer/director Nick Willing and co-scenarist William Brookfield, working from a novel by Madison Smartt Bell, have crafted some intelligent sequences that many hotter directors with bigger budgets could learn a thing or two from, often taking advantage of the axiom that the things you don’t see can be scarier than what you can to great effect when needed.

The only major problem with the film comes from the lack of character development with Michael’s wife and daughter. Neither has much to do with the story, and could have been excised completely from the final script with one or two minor tweaks to cover Michael’s motivation. But this is a minor criticism in what is otherwise a fine film. ”Close Your Eyes” deserves a wider release than the one it’s receiving, so if it doesn’t come to a theatre near you, make sure you seek it out on video.

Rating: A-