In a small town, a preacher named Smythe is accused of adultery. He has a band of loyal followers who live with him and follow every notion he addresses. Of those followers includes several small children, a couple, the preacher’s new girlfriend and her children, and a mysterious woman named Leah who is accused of being born of a witch. When the townsfolk pull Smythe into a barn and attempt to hang him, his noose snaps and he and his followers flee. They end up taking shelter deep in the woods, where unbeknownst to them, another witch and her Native American followers were supposedly persecuted. As the nights grow longer and their faith begins to dwindle, they are picked off one after another after experiencing bizarre nightmares and interactions with other neighboring Natives.
This film is almost the quintessential folk horror tale. The cinematography is beautiful, the landscapes are colorful, the witchcraft is frightening and strange, there are dream sequences that toy around with your perceptions, and there’s a lot of surreal images such as faces and human bodies being morphed into several trees and emerging at points. It pits the most Holy of men against the elements and ultimately attacks his faith and his followers. Neither livestock nor children are safe from the grasp of this forest witch who terrifyingly shows up in the middle of the night with glowing yellow eyes and the ability to manipulate the flora around them. The presence of Leah on their team, who is mostly mute and does bizarre things such as eating mud and sleeping in the bushes, appears to be tapping into some sort of clairvoyance that helps her understand the dangers at hand and how to thwart them – if possible.
It’s a rather simple concept that was severely overlooked when it was released in 1983. It didn’t hit the big screen so it became a cult-classic “stuck on VHS” entry only until recently. The newest restoration of this title highlights the colors, the musical stings, the soundscape, and all the brilliant creativity that went into this piece. It’s a film that feels truly one-of-a-kind and rivals contemporary pieces such as “The Blair Witch Project” or “The VVitch” when it comes to almost definitive folk horror.
It’s creepy, it’s atmospheric, it’s very interesting, and it holds strong 40 years after it’s release.
“Eyes of Fire” is currently streaming on Shudder, and is available on Bluray/DVD from Severin Films.
‘Til Next Time,
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