Tuesday, February 01, 2011

"Bleeding for the Mob" in EYES ARE UPON YOU (a.k.a. DEMON LUST)

Pulp novelist James M. Cain once wrote, “True beauty has terror in it,” but none of his femme fatales were quite as terrifying as Amanda, the mysterious woman who enters EYES ARE UPON YOU at the 35-minute mark and turns a fairly standard crime story into a blood-soaked tale of horror.

Thaddeus J. Pipon’s offbeat screenplay starts off with best friends Tony (Edward Lee Vincent) and Nick (Zander Teller) and their half-baked efforts to raise the $10,000 needed to settle some outstanding debts with big-time mobster Sonny Morocco (Sam Nicotero). Meanwhile, in another part of town, a mentally retarded man named Cecil (Harold Keller) has been using his new telescope to spy on the wealthy and beautiful Amanda (Brinke Stevens), who lives across the street and is actually a demon who tears apart her lovers during sex.

Somehow, these two plots intersect.

“I haven’t seen many independent horror movies, but it seems to me that this one has a slightly more sophisticated storyline than some of the others out there,” says first-time director David A. Goldberg, who shot EYES ARE UPON YOU in Pittsburgh in 1996 on a budget of just under $150,000. Goldberg, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Filmmakers, had been operating his own video business, taping special events and making industrial videos, when his friends Pipon and Anthony Cuda started talking about making a movie. “It was actually their idea to do it, and when they told me about it…I kind of took it over,” Goldberg laughs. “But we all had a different specialty that we brought to it. Thaddeus had been working on the script, Anthony has always been into the special effects and makeup, I had some money to put in – the timing just seemed right.”

That is, until Old Man Winter joined the team. Filming started in late January, but dragged on until August because of the weather. “It was the longest winter of all time,” Goldberg groans. “It sort of broke mid-April, and we were able to do our first outside shoot, but a week later it was snowing again. Once we got out there, though, everything fell into place.

Although the filmmakers consider EYES ARE UPON YOU to be primarily a crime thriller with some horrific elements, the cast features several names familiar to the horror genre. “Brinke was at a comic book convention, and our director of photography (Joseph Robert Jobe) wanted to do a photo shoot with her – and this was about halfway through the shooting of the movie,” Goldberg recalls. “Her part hadn’t really been cast yet. We were sort of holding out for a big name, trying to see who we could come up with, and it turned out that she was interested in doing it.”

Horror fans will no doubt be surprised to see Nicotero, uncle of KNB FX wizard Greg Nicotero, playing mobster Sonny Morocco. But his lineage, it turns out, had nothing to do with his involvement in the project. “Sam is a local actor, and he had sent in his head shot when we were holding auditions,” Goldberg explains. “He looked like a good mob boss, so that was it.”

Thanks to his background in makeup FX, Cuda was able to land Pittsburgh’s very own Tom Savini for a substantial supporting role. He plays Eddie “The Goose” Rao, a sadistic henchman who tortures Nick with a yo-yo (!). “Tom was great,” says Goldberg. “Probably more than anybody, he had a lot of suggestions as far as different ways to shoot things. Really good suggestions.”

Despite the presence of Stevens and Savini in the cast, EYES ARE UPON YOU remained unreleased until the summer of 2001, when it debuted on home video (from E.I.) under the title DEMON LUST. The DVD appeared in 2005 and is still available for purchase from the E.I./Alternative Cinema website. It contains outtakes and a featurette titled DEMON FAMILIARS, starring Stevens "in her sexiest role to date!" -- Chris Poggiali

(Fangoria #165, August 1997)

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