Need a new face? We know a guy.

A woman dumps a body in a river at night. When it’s discovered, Dr. Génessier is called to the morgue to identify the body. His daughter Christiane’s face had been disfigured in a car accident before disappearing, and this body is missing a face. Or, as the police say, it “fits the description.” The body also fits the description for another missing girl, but Génessier confirms that the body is his daughter’s.

So begins Eyes Without a Face, a 1960 French-Italian body horror film about a doctor who’s obsessed with transplanting a new face onto his daughter’s disfigured one. It’s not scary at all, though the main character’s blank mask is super creepy.

eyes without a face

That’s Christiane, who Génessier has hidden away in his mansion since her disfigurement. His assistant Louise is the woman who dumped the body in the beginning. In his obsession with fixing his daughter’s face, Génessier has become a serial-killer, with Louise as an accomplice. Louise feels she owes Génessier, because he replaced her face in an apparently successful surgery. There are no stylistic flourishes here – we’re just given the horrific facts to contemplate. In the film’s most graphic scene, we watch Génessier remove a kidnapped woman’s face.

eyesface

The scene is so mundane it could almost be an educational surgery video. And that’s the point, I guess.

None of the surgeries work, of course. Christiane’s body rejects the new faces Génessier grafts onto her, and even Louise’s new face eventually deteriorates and is rejected. There’s probably a deeper thematic meaning to that, but just on a purely visceral level, the futility of Génessier’s attempts add a layer of cruel irony. This is a guy who’s completely lost perspective. He’ll murder as many young women as it takes to give his daughter a new face without hesitation.

It begs the question of his real motivations. They might seem noble on the surface, but his utter disregard for human life makes it seem as if his daughter is just a convenient recipient for his experiments.

Christiane tries to resist her father’s influence. She contemplates calling her ex-fiancé several times but is thwarted, and she shows affection for the dogs her father keeps caged for his experiments. Eventually, driven mad with guilt, she stabs Louise in the neck and sets the dogs loose. The dogs attack and kill the doctor and, in true poetic justice, his face is disfigured in the process.

As far as horror films go, that’s kind of a happy ending. But it’s also dark through-and-through. It’s a good movie for what it is. While it might not be scary, it is pretty unsettling. Avid horror fans seeking scares or thrills will be disappointed, though.

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We're a collection of horror affectionados, filmmakers, and and lovers of all things creepy, ghostly, bloody, grimey, spooky, gorey, hellish, and just all around terrifying. You know, the kind of people who like to keep the lights off in the house at night just to scare ourselves silly.