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Close Your Eyes

Directed by Nick Willing

Written by Nick Willing, William Brookfield

Starring Goran Visnjic, Paddy Considine, Shirley Henderson, Miranda Otto

Produced by Michele Camarda

Rated R

108 minutes

This week’s plug is for Cassava Films, whose truly impressive “Serial Slayer” is on InDemand Pay Per View through May 25. Go here or pester your cable company for details.

The British have been the undisputed masters of the mystery genre for better than the last hundred years. And this massive legacy shows forth cleanly and fitly with Close Your Eyes, a fantastically subtle, if slightly flawed, murder mystery straight out of Great Britain.

So what we have here is the story of a hypnotherapist who sees more than he’d like. Dr. Michael Strother has the capacity to see the inside of his patients’ minds. Naturally, you’d think this would be an incredible boon to the whole concept of psychology (“Hey, I see what the problem is! You’re a closet kleptomaniac! That’ll be two hundred fifty dollars—next patient!”), and you know the HMOs would love a therapist who could perform diagnoses on the fly like that.

And Strother puts his gift to work, helping a detective who wants to quit smoking. Standard operating procedure, right? Well, you’d be absolutely right…until Strother gets a disturbing vision involving a child floating underneath a stream.

Seems Strother’s patient is chasing after a serial killer who favors occultic signs and behaviors, and the girl in Strother’s vision was one of the victims. The girl’s name is Heather, and she’s the sole survivor of our serial killer.

She also hasn’t spoken a word since.

Which means it’s time for Strother to step in and help out with the investigation, which he of course does, with shocking results.

The part that really amazes me about Close Your Eyes is that it’s a British film. Close Your Eyes comes to us from the BBC’s fiction arm, BBC Films. Now, if you’re familiar with British works, you know they practically invented the locked-room mystery, along with any of a dozen others. The Brits gave us Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and hordes of others.

That’s an enormous onus put on the boys and girls at BBC Films to produce an incredible piece of suspense work, and they do seem up to the task. Check out the incredible visual work at the five minute mark—the waterfall and the forest are done entirely by CG, and its a thing of beauty. Even the changeovers are amazingly done—the differences between the scenes are so seamless and of such high quality it’s unfathomable.

Close Your Eyes also manages to ramp up some incredibly suspenseful sequences. It fully lives up the massive legacy that English mystery has spawned.

Close Your Eyes suffers in one major regard—the frequent appearances of various occultic symbols. I know, I know; they’re an important part of the plot. But the concept in general has been so badly overused that the standard occultic symbology has become unnecessary. Other means could have been used—the invention of unique symbols referred to as occultic would have sufficed.

The ending is a real surprise, an excellent thrilling ending to the preceding built-up suspense. Plus, there’s an incredible twist that must be seen to be believed.

The special features include cast and crew interviews, a behind the scenes featurette, a theatrical trailer (this was in European theatres for quite some time) and trailers for “Pulse,” “Mayor of the Sunset Strip,” “Stateside,” “September Tapes,” and “Unsolved Mysteries.” The “Unsolved Mysteries” trailer isn’t for a movie, but rather for the various DVD box sets of the old NBC series, offering themed sets “Ghosts,” “UFOs,” and later, “Miracles.”

All in all, Close Your Eyes is a worthy addition to the pantheon of British mystery titles. Though it suffers from the unnecessary addition of occultic symbols, it is still a suspenseful, thrilling masterwork.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.

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