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Film / Eye of the Devil

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Eye of the Devil is a 1966 horror film directed by J. Lee Thompson, starring Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Donald Pleasence and Sharon Tate.

Philippe de Montfaucon (Niven), a French nobleman, receives an ominous message from a creepy bearded messenger, and tells his wife Catherine (Kerr) that he must leave for the family estate of Bellenac, a vineyard out in the country. Catherine at first lets him go, but changes her mind and goes after him later, toting along their children Jacques and Antoinette. She finds a thoroughly creepy town with thoroughly creepy people who all look at her oddly. The Montfaucon mansion is a creepy old castle. Odile and Christian de Caray, two super-creepy siblings (Tate and David Hemmings) roam the grounds of the mansion, shooting doves out of the sky. A creepy Obviously Evil priest (Pleasence) knows a lot more than he is telling. And on her first night in the mansion, Catherine stumbles on a creepy ceremony in which the de Carays present one of their dead doves to a mysterious group of people in black cloaks.

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Basically, it's creepy.

Film debut of Tate, released three years before she was murdered by the Manson Family.


Tropes:

  • And Starring: Tate gets an "And Introducing" credit after all the other actors are credited.
  • Bald of Evil: As so often in his career, Pleasence plays a weird evil bald guy.
  • Black Cloak: How the cultists dress for their ceremonies, like whatever was going on with the dead dove, or the ritual sacrifice of Phillipe at the end.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: Not that it's clear what she would have done anyway, but Catherine arrives just in time to see Phillipe take an arrow from Christian.
  • The Chains of Commanding: It's nice to be a count with a large estate and a whole town to work it for you, but it's less nice when you are obligated to come back home to be ritually murdered.
  • Chiaroscuro: It's a black and white film, and the vast empty spaces of Castle Bellenac are artfully lit, filling the place with spooky shadows.
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  • Cult: The entire town is a Satanic cult masquerading as a normal French Catholic village.
  • Disturbed Doves: A flock of doves flies away when Catherine drives into the courtyard of the castle. The doves get more disturbed when Christian shoots one out of the air.
  • Downer Ending: Phillipe dies in a Satanic human sacrifice ritual. And little Jacques has bought into Satanism and will continue the tradition.
  • Dream Sequence: Catherine has a nightmare of all the scary things she's seen in and around the castle.
  • Fake Shemp: Inverted. Some long shots of Kim Novak were still used after she was replaced.
  • A Fête Worse Than Death: "Le treize jour,", in English "the thirteen days", supposedly the town fair but actually the rite for the human sacrifice.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: The chiming bells of the "le treize jour" parade come off as scary in context.
  • Foreshadowing: Catherine mentions that on her one previous visit to Bellenac, it struck her as "someplace out of the middle ages." She's quite right.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: It's pouring rain as Catherine takes her children away after failing to save Phillipe.
  • Hollywood Satanism: A pretty standard instance of this trope, with a Secret Circle of Secrets, evil magic, and Human Sacrifice.
  • Hot Witch: Besides being a Satanist, Odile can do some magic, like when she causes a toad to appear and then changes the toad into a dove. She is also played by Sharon Tate, crammed into some tight black dresses.
  • Human Sacrifice: The men of the de Montfaucon family, going back for centuries, are occasionally sacrificed in a fertility rite, when the crops are failing. Phillipe is called back home to be sacrificed because the vineyard is failing after three years of drought.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Odile has these, as seen when she hypnotizes Catherine with her stare and nearly gets Catherine to kill herself.
  • Impairment Shot: Catherine's vision goes blurry when Odile is hypnotizing her, with a view to make her take a fatal step off a high wall. They're interrupted just in time.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The very very ominous mass conducted by Pere Dominic. Turns out it's a Satanic Black Mass.
  • Religion of Evil: A cult of Satanists who conduct ritual human sacrifice surely qualifies.
  • Religious Horror: A local Satanic cult, which has taken on much of the iconography and symbolism of the Catholic Church, including black masses that look a lot like the regular Mass, and the use of crosses and Christian symbolism for their human sacrifice.
  • Sinister Minister: The unblinking, ominous Pere Dominic, who speaks in a spooky monotone and is bald Donald Pleasance, so therefore Obviously Evil. Turns out he's not a Catholic priest, he's a Satanic priest.
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: The coven of Satanists, which dons the standard black robes when conducting occult rites.
  • Sleepwalking: Jacques is apparently prone to this, as seen when he wanders out of his bedroom and starts talking about how he wants to take a motorcar to see his dad, while still asleep.
  • A Taste of the Lash: In a fairly obvious appeal to Fetish, Phillipe whips Odile after Odile tries to kill Catherine.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The village is full of Satanists who occasionally conduct human sacrifices.
  • Translation Convention: A film set in France with a cast speaking English. Makes for a couple of odd moments, like when Catherine finds a carved inscription written in French and reads it in English.

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