21 December 2009 | moviesleuth2
"Close Your Eyes" is an unusual thriller. The story and characters are not present in your typical entries into this or any genre. And although on that level I recommend the film, it falls way short of greatness due to its pedestrian direction.
A serial killer has been kidnapping and killing young girls around London. One girl named Heather has survived, but she isn't talking. After hypnotherapist Michael Strother cures Detective Janet Losey (Shirley Henderson) of her smoking addiction, he reveals something that she saw under hypnosis: an image of Heather floating underwater. She thinks that Strother can help her with her case, but he refuses. Eventually he relents, and gets pulled into a disturbing mystery involving some creepy science and mysticism.
Thrillers, especially those of this ilk, demand a strong sense of atmosphere. A story can be chilling in its own right, but it's up to the director to put us at an sense of unease so we can get sucked into the story. But although director Nick Willing can boast a few inventive visuals, he can't establish a sense of atmosphere where this unease can build. Films like "The Descent" built up the tension long before the monsters ever showed up, which made the second half downright terrifying; Willing isn't able to accomplish this; in fact, he doesn't seem to be able to try. Worse, he cannot establish a narrative flow. The film is poorly paced, and as a result it seems to start and stop at random moments.
This is especially unfortunate because the film boasts some impressive performances. Goran Visnjic uses his soothing voice effectively (even I was almost hypnotized by his voice), and the celebrated Croatian actor makes for a sympathetic protagonist. Shirley Henderson is rather stiff as the policewoman who believes that he can help (actually, she's the only one who believes this). Miranda Otto is underused as Michael's long-suffering American wife. However, Fiona Shaw and John Rogan are creepy in small but important parts.
This is an okay choice for those who are tired of the usual schtick from "thrillers," but it could have been a lot better.