EYES OF THE CHAMELEON

EYES OF THE CHAMELEON

Welcome to Las Vegas. Sin City, and all that. Where the lights shine brightly, the night is lit by neon colours and Elvis marries couples with no sense of dignity or class. Hookers make a fortune accommodating the seedier needs of tourists; the Mob uses the surrounding desert to dispose of its corpses.

Itís an ideal location for a serial killer, as evidenced in Nick Palumboís MURDER-SET-PIECES.

Our killer here is of the black leather gloved variety. They pick up a bespectacled hooker in Vegas one evening and take her to a remote hillside overlooking the desert. She gets out and admires the view. The killer also leaves the vehicle, and proceeds to stab the young woman several times Ė culminating with the slashing of her throat.

Then we meet Sarah (Ann Teal), who works as a bartender in Vegas. Sheís with a friend to visit a foreign-sounding fortune teller who has a penchant for pet chameleons. The symbolism starts here: the fact that chameleons have the ability to change, adapt etc ...

Anyhow, an incident round the fortune tellerís table causes Sarah to flee back to her Vegas apartment. She feels queasy later that night (it could be all the cocaine she snorts, to be fair), and this leads her to believe the old hag has placed a curse on her. When her boyfriend Steve arrives to comfort her, she only becomes more irritable by his presence.

The following evening, Sarah is at work in her bar and offers to walk colleague Nancy home. Sheís newly single after having dumped Steveís brother, Greg (Robert Scott Howard).

Nancy declines the offer. Nancy is accosted by a maniac brandishing a straight razor shortly afterwards. Silly Nancy.

Nancy winds up held captive beneath floorboards, in a scene that echoes the filmís chilling prologue, which detailed an evil uncle berating a child he kept under similar floorboards years earlier ...

Sarah learns of Nancyís disappearance from her friend Rachel. She doesnít seem too bothered. In fact, she seems more concerned about getting a decent nightís sleep, and looking after her aging parents.

Meanwhile, the killings continue Ė all victims of which now appear to be friends of Sarah Ė and inquisitive cop Lundi (Mikos Zavros) makes his presence felt ...

Does Sarah know the killer? Or could the revealing of the killerís true identity be even more disturbing to her?

When a film opens by announcing itís financed by a production company called Eye Scream and goes on to garner distribution from Troma, itís reasonable for the viewer to lower expectations. By several notches.

So, disregard that rather nice retro-style artwork. This is a 2005 film that cost just $10,000.00 to make over a 2-year period, and was directed by Ron Atkins, the guy who previously brought us SCHIZOPHRENIAC: THE WHORE MANGLER and NECROMANIAC: SCHIZOPHRENIAC 2 ...

Right, now that expectations have been suitably adjusted, I can inform that EYES OF THE CHAMELEON is actually pretty decent.

Clearly inspired by the giallo cinema of Argento, Fulci et al, Atkinsí film is frequently stylish and makes decent use of its locationís colourful backdrops. Shot almost exclusively at night, itís also well lit.

The acting is flat throughout, as youíd expect from a no-budget effort, but thatís not too great a problem. Dialogue and the plodding plotline are more troublesome. The film gets predictable quite quickly, and peters out despite its trim 77-minute running time.

Still, there are plenty of arresting moments to savour along the way. The camerawork is considered in every frame, striving for the ťlan of vintage Argento. Murder scenes manage minor gore with half-decent FX. And, it has to be said, the sight of bare breasts at regular intervals doesnít harm the tone any.

Satisfyingly straight-faced and commendably old-fashioned in its pseudo-psychedelic unravelling, Atkinsí film achieves modest entertainment on its meagre budget.

EYES OF THE CHAMELEON is presented in a letterboxed 1.66:1 ratio. Picture quality is somewhat soft and dark. Still, colours and blacks are strong.

English 2.0 audio is adequate but does dip on occasion. I had to turn the volume up twice.

An animated main menu page is paradoxically among the noisiest Iíve heard in some time. From there, a static scene-selection menu allows access to the main feature via 10 chapters.

According to the back of the DVD box, the only extras on the disc are a directorís commentary track and a slideshow.

This isnít the case, neither appear.

Actual extras begin with 2 minutes of deleted footage. Both deleted scenes are shouty affairs presented in letterboxed 1.66:1. They both suffer from muted dialogue (the reason for their excision from the final film?).

Tromaís original 2-minute trailer for the film is also provided, and is a surprisingly disturbing proposition.

And then there is the usual fluff in the form of "Tromatic Extras": The Radiation March, an excerpt from "Make Your Own Damn Movie" etc.

We do get trailers for a few other Troma titles: THE TOXIC AVENGER, POULTRYGEIST, BLOOD JUNKIE, THEREíS NOTHING OUT THERE, BLOOD OATH, TROMEO AND JULIET, CLASS OF NUKE ĎEM HIGH and SGT KABUKIMAN NYPD.

I enjoyed EYES OF THE CHAMELEON. Itís a modern American film of no budget that strives to capture the spirit of 70s gialli. It fails ultimately, but still has a lot to offer.

Review by Stuart Willis


 
Released by Troma Entertainment
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review
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