Describe the plot of 2020’s Blind to any horror fan and you’re likely to hear something like: “Oh, so kind of like Hush, then?” However, despite superficial similarities with Mike Flanagan’s taut thriller, Blind is an altogether different beast. Where Hush was a stripped back chiller bristling with suspense, Blind is a plodding, frustrating experience that never quite gets off the ground.
Faye (Sarah French) has retired from a successful acting career after botched eye surgery has left her completely without vision. Struggling with depression, Faye has joined a support group for disabled people where she enjoys the friendships of Sophia (Caroline Williams) and Luke (Tyler Gallant). Unbeknownst to Faye, a masked killer is stalking her, killing those who get too close.
The film is described as a “horror drama” and, like a thousand horror comedies before it, fails to deliver on either promise. The drama has a certain stilted soap opera quality to it, being more or less a simple “will they, won’t they” tale of two people who are obviously required to get together for the story and their sassy friend. The actors involved have some B-movie pedigree but aren’t able to bring a great deal of gravitas to the more dramatic lines. It begs the question: why couldn’t real disabled people have been found to fill these roles?
Meanwhile, the horror has the feel of a five-minute short stretched out to feature length with infuriatingly long shots of the killer dancing to ’80s prom music. Inspired by a dream that writer Joe Knetter had, and shot over the following five weeks, the haste of the production is visible on screen, with much of the film feeling severely underdeveloped.
Thomas Rist’s cinematography is accomplished. He captures some of the sleepy glamour of the Hollywood hills with lots of hazy soft focus and vibrant colour. However, this polished sheen isn’t quite enough to distract from the simplistic storytelling and basic physical effects.
The image of a masked killer standing right next to an oblivious and vulnerable Faye can be striking and unsettling. The effect is diluted, however, when that shot goes on, and on, and on, only to be followed by another shot that conveys exactly the same visual information, this time from a new angle. This is a problem throughout Blind. The whole film is marked by a complete lack of urgency, and its lumbering pace sees all tension completely evaporate.
With its snail-like momentum, the film collapses into a kind of lukewarm stew. The murderer’s motivations remain completely unexplained, their backstory unexplored. It’s not a tense cat-and-mouse game, because Faye remains completely oblivious to her assailant throughout. Pretty soon, the killer goes from a horrifying masked menace to a bit of the scenery. The stakes remain the same, and we find ourselves wondering whether anything is going to be added in to spice the broth.
The most troublesome thing about the film is the apparent lack of concern with the lived reality of visually impaired people. In Hush, the film that draws the most obvious comparison with Blind, it is immediately clear that the filmmakers did extensive research into how deaf people manage their conditions. The film subverts audience expectations about disability on screen, taking an attribute that makes a character potentially vulnerable in certain situations and making it the means by which they turn the tables on their assailant.
In Blind, there is absolutely no question that Faye’s blindness makes her absolutely helpless. She never senses the presence of the hulking murderer, even when he stands inches away from her. She casually accepts that the silent person in the room with her is who she assumes it is without ever questioning them. One of the characters in the film communicates using a digital voice box. The murderer never uses this voice box to impersonate this character, missing an almost laughably open storytelling goal.
All in all, Blind has the feel of a film with a central idea that wasn’t quite strong enough to stretch over its runtime. While it has some creepy moments, their effectiveness is too often negated by repetition and lingering too long on the shocks. Perhaps most uncomfortably, its central character is completely infantilised within the story by her disability, completely without agency as events unfold around her.