MARCH 14, 2011
I bought Eye See You (aka D-Tox) years ago, and watched it with some friends, which is to say I never really watched it. I could vaguely recall who the killer was, but nothing else (i.e. what his motive was, if he had a costume, etc). At the time I figured “I’ll just watch it again tomorrow and pay attention”, but that was like 7 years ago. The only reason I finally got around to watching it properly is because I was stuck for an idea for a Terror Tuesday column, and then I noticed on my DVD rack that it was next to End Of Days, and started thinking about writing about action stars doing horror movies. So here we are.
Oddly, someone on Twitter took me to task for my choice, saying it wasn’t a horror movie, and I was baffled about that even before I watched it “again”. One of the few things I COULD remember about it was that it was very much like a slasher movie (which surprised me at the time), and unlike Arnold’s End Of Days, wasn’t a typical vehicle for its star with some genre stuff tossed in. Apart from the fact that Sly and the killer have two very brief shootouts (in which neither of them land a shot), there’s nothing action-movie about D-Tox at all. The villain is a serial killer, there’s no car chases or explosions, he usually fucks around with his victims before killing them, wears a costume (well, a big coat – like the Urban Legend killer), and even has some variety to his weapons – a drill, a knife, strangulation, etc. Hell even Scream 3 had an explosion and a race against time.
And it’s a whodunit! Not a lot of action movies tend to hide the identity of the villain. It’s not like you’re watching Cliffhanger wondering if John Lithgow is the bad guy. No, for the first hour or so, we are supposed to be suspicious of several characters, including Tom Berenger, Stephen Lang, Robert Patrick, some bald dude named Mif (?), and Jeffrey Wright, who essentially plays John Leguizamo. They’re (mostly) ex-cops, like Sly, as the detox center caters to law enforcement types who are battling some form of addiction or other. Kris Kristofferson (also an ex-cop) runs the place, and Berenger is their handyman, and there are some other guys... I think the idea was to populate the movie with a lot of red herrings (many of which are played by bad guy actors like Patrick or Lang) to make it harder to figure out who the killer was, but either due to bad editing or misguided screenwriting, it doesn’t really work. You’d have to be a complete virgin to whodunit slashers to be surprised who the killer turns out to be, and perhaps that’s why they didn’t drag it out a bit longer.
But even though it’s not much a shocker when it’s revealed that the guy who had been the nicest to Sly upon his arrival (and also played by the only British guy in a group of American hardasses) turns out to be the killer, they still could have made some of the other characters at least SEEM like plausible choices. The overcrowded cast is a major issue here - had they cut the cast down by a third, they could have spent some more time with the others and maybe made the mystery a bit more of a challenge. This means we also get a limited number of kill scenes – at least half of them are off-screen. With everyone wearing the same blue/hooded winter coat, Gillespie could have had some fun with the confusion that it causes, but apart from a quick bit near the end, this is never capitalized on for the kill scenes. And I guess it would have just inspired unflattering comparisons to The Thing, but the brief section of the film where everyone starts to suspect each other is VERY brief, almost an afterthought. Again, with fewer characters, this sort of stuff could have been a lot more interesting, but it’s just too crowded – most characters aren’t even viable suspects because they had too many witnesses to their whereabouts.
There’s also an unfortunate subplot with Charles S. Dutton as Sly’s partner, who has inexplicably decided to take an ice-fishing trip nearby while Sly detoxes (doesn’t he plan on going back to his own family and job? I know Sly is awesome, but even he would need more than a night or two to get better, no?). Every now and then we cut (well, fade – Gillespie and/or his editor(s) abuse the hell out of the fade button in this movie) to Dutton trying to drill a hole in the ice or shooting the shit with Rance Howard or something, scenes that either provide (non) comic relief or tip off plot developments way too early. Part of the killer’s plan is that he has killed one of the police officers en route to the facility and assumed his identity, which would have been cool if we didn’t know about it at least 20 minutes before Sly did, when Dutton finds the body in the ice.
But it’s still a pretty decent slasher thriller. Obviously the acting caliber is a lot better than your usual Jim Gillespie movie (he also directed the woeful, equally glorified DTV release Venom), and having the great Dean Semler (Dances With Wolves) as your DP is never a bad thing – the film looks terrific. The kills that we DO see aren’t particularly memorable, but there’s a good throat slashing at one point, and I like that the big budget (55 million!) and A/B+ list cast didn’t stop the killer from using various implements – knives, drills, strangulation, poison... it’s very “Ten Little Indians” in that respect. Too bad they didn’t stick to just ten people.
And Sly is pretty good, doing the whole burn-out cop thing (much better than Arnold was at playing a similar character in End Of Days). Apart from the happy opening scenes, he doesn’t get to display much of his natural charm, nor does he look particularly heroic – 3-4 days’ stubble at all times, dark circles under the eyes, etc. He looks, simply, like shit, and kudos to him for that, especially since it’s not until the film’s final 5 minutes or so that he gets to do anything heroic. At two points in the film it seems like he’s going to punch out an asshole, or at least say something quote-worthy, but nope. Hell even in Copland he got to shoot some guys and romance Annabella Sciorra, and that’s the one people often point to when they talk about him doing something different.
Sadly he doesn’t say much about working outside of his comfort zone on the DVD. Or, anything, really – he’s pretty much the only one in the cast who doesn’t appear in a collection of brief interviews in the extra features. And I mean BRIEF; many replies are a single sentence response to a bland question like “What was it like working with Stallone?” (typical answer: “He was great, I think people will be surprised to see him in this role.”). Everyone heaps praise upon him, Gillespie, the script, the set, and each other, but tells you nothing of use. The deleted scenes are a slightly better use of your time; they don’t solve any of the film’s narrative problems (such as why at least three people are left behind in the freezing facility at the end of the movie, or what happened to Kris Kristofferson’s character), but it adds some nice character bits here and there, and includes the nightmare scene seen in the trailer, which is otherwise surprisingly filled with footage from the movie – for a movie that was on the shelf for a while and likely re-edited, you’d think the trailer would be loaded with stuff that wasn’t in the finished product. Good on you, trailer editor.
I don’t know where the hell the 55 million went, but I’m even more confused why Universal would greenlight a film, sign a lot of good actors, produce it, and then decide when it was finished that they didn’t want to release it. I doubt it would have been a big hit, but it didn’t deserve to be tossed under a bus like it was, either. And you’d think that some other big studio would have wanted it (Warner, for example, for whom Stallone made many of his big hits), sparing it the indignity of being released by something called DEJ Productions, who have one other theatrical release to their name (hilariously, their static logo appears in the film for like 25 seconds, likely to hide Universal’s logo without screwing up the soundtrack). Stallone may not have been the big star he used to be, but coming off of the reasonably successful Copland, coupled with the revived slasher genre, the movie could have found an audience if it was given a chance to do so. Oh well.
What say you?