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A folk horror ripe with supernatural terror like “Eyes of Fire” should have been enough for such a talented director to get more work.

Eyes of Fire

A group of settlers flee their village in protest but choose the wrong valley to call a new home as evil closes in on them. Let’s dig into 1983’s EYES OF FIRE, directed by Avery Crounse!

As I See It

I watched the 108-minute “Crying Blue Sky” cut. This was previously unavailable before Severin’s 2021 release. Director Avery Crounse had made around twenty-two minutes of cuts and renamed the film as it stands now: Eyes of Fire.

Reportedly, the cut version is hard to figure out, and I can understand that; the full, original version is artsy and poetic enough to make it hard to ingest.

Thematically, this is a very grown-up film.

It’s a folk story along the lines of Irish Pagan lore but told in the American West alongside colonial times. There is an air of the 1600s and the witch trials, especially in the opening, but it is set in the 1700s. Crounse uses elements of horror to comment on the past.

Instead of crafting a revenge story where the indigenous people fight back for their land, he lays the settlers into a dark and evil valley that even the natives wouldn’t travel. There, he unleashes superimposed monsters and a bevy of in-camera tricks.

The swamp-like creature is especially creepy and well-executed — the best glowing cat eyes I’ve seen… along with the worst fake beard (Jewell).

It begs the question, how much obeisance do we owe to the past? Will Smythe’s naive line set the stage for evil to move in: “Who cares if someone died here? We had a miracle here!”

Crounse did not have a large output, just three films, but it’s a shame that there wasn’t more from him that we can take in because it seems like he was an auteur with a lot of heart and intention.

Famous Faces

Dennis Lipscomb (Will Smythe) was in the early hacker masterpiece WarGames, which starred Matthew Broderick.

Rob Paulsen (Jewell) has lent his voice to many of your childhood cartoon favorites, including G.I. Joe, Transformers (animated), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pinky and the Brain, and he was the voice of Gnorm in A Gnome Named Gnorm.

Of Gratuitous Nature

A quick flash of nude Leah (Karlene Crockett) is all that can be found, but she is the “Queen of the Forest” after all.

Heartthrob

That swamp creature is going to stick with me for a while. It’s like a dark, shapeless version of Meg Mucklebones from Ridley Scott’s Legend.

Ripe for a Remake

It’s best to leave it alone, especially with Crounse having passed away last year.

Spawns

No progeny to report.

Where to Watch

Severin Films released a Blu-Ray with a few extras, including an interview with writer/director Avery Crounse. You can stream it on AMC+, Shudder, and Flix Fling.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 2.5


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