Austin Jennings has made his name directing The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder. For five years he has guided Joe Bob Briggs, Darcy the Mail Girl as well as a list of horror stars from the past 60 years. But now he has made his feature-film debut with Eight Eyes, a story that is bound to be shown on The Last Drive-In in 30 years’ time… because it has cult classic written all over it. 

Cass (Emily Sweet) and Gav (Bradford Thomas) are on a trip through the Slavic region of Europe when they gate-crash a wedding, with Gav filming aspects of the festivities on his Super 8 camera. The following day the pair bump into another guest, Saint Peter (Bruno Veljanovski), who was at the wedding, although the pair don’t remember seeing him there. He is friendly and hospitable and slowly works his way into their vacation. He becomes their unofficial tour guide, showing the couple the sites and attractions, although some of the landmarks they visit wouldn’t feature highly on TripAdvisor. 

First stop is the old abandoned factory Peter’s father used to work in, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Whilst at the factory, Gav proceeds to film, but this causes Peter to quickly change and get angry with Gav. The tension eases and the trio make a camp for the night, get drunk and eat chicken (which Peter has caught, killed, prepared and cooked), although Cass is less than impressed, especially as she didn’t realise they would be spending the night in a derelict building. This isn’t the only reason Cass is uneasy - since meeting Peter she has been experiencing psychedelic and incohesive visions that feature a female voice seemingly talking to her. These hallucinations seem to become stronger the more she is around Peter. 

The following day Gav and Cass say goodbye to Peter, but not before meeting some of his unconventional family. It’s only at this point things really start to become peculiar for the pair as their trip takes a nasty turn - was Saint Peter their holy guardian or a fallen angel? The couple are plunged into a bizarre and dangerous situation in a country where they are complete strangers. 

Eight Eyes is a complete fever dream of an experience. Footage is taken from multiple mediums, including Gav’s Super 8 footage and a Saint Peter’s bizarre home movie. This footage, combined with the constant handheld and grainy style, gives the movie an odd and disjointed realism that leaves you questioning what is real and what isn’t. It is difficult to fully settle in, which really adds another layer of discomfort and unease about what unfolds during the story. 

Even though Eight Eyes pays homage to so many sub-genres - Giallo, exploitation, grindhouse - and comparisons can be made to a plethora of films - Hostel, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a range of Italian titles and even Videodrome - it’s amazing to see how fresh, original and compelling it is. Jennings blends folklore, mysticism and occultism perfectly into one frenzied and disorientating nightmare. And much like Giallo, the style, tone, and visuals are just as important as the narrative. 

The movie may not do much for the Balkan tourism trade. Both Serbia and Macedonia are depicted as very tired and grey looking, whether it be the Serbian capital of Belgrade or the rural settings Cass and Gav are led to. From the use of VHS players to vehicular transportation, the countries featured appear to be fixed in the 1990s. However, one of the production companies behind Eight Eyes, Not the Funeral Home, have stated that it ‘is committed to working particularly with cast and crews based in countries and regions with burgeoning and under-represented filmmaking cultures’. This is clear by the use of cast alone - Emily Sweet and Bradford Thomas are the only Americans featured throughout. Furthermore, Jennings has done well to find such a great talent in Bruno Veljanovski. Veljanovski’s performance wields and veers from well-meaning and jovial to intense and controlling; this is even more outstanding when you consider that this is his first movie role. 

Eight Eyes is a well-crafted and layered yarn that crosses and blurs the boundaries between life and death, the real, and the surreal, and it does it really well. Multiple viewings may be required to try and fully comprehend Jennings’ twisted and lurid fairy-tale.

Movie Score: 4/5

  • James Doherty
    About the Author - James Doherty

    James is a life-long horror fan since coming across Halloween on late-night TV, when he was 9 years-old. He was too scared to watch it all the way through, so when things got too scary he changed the channel. When he worked up the courage he would switch back to Halloween. This happened several times. He has previously written for GoreZone magazine in the UK and the Evolution of Horror.