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Friday, April 23, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Movie Review
Thriller becomes an open-and-shut-your-eyes case

By Moira Macdonald
Seattle Times movie critic

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Let the title of "Close Your Eyes," an occasionally engaging but more often gruesome British thriller from writer/director Nick Willing, serve as a warning — and, occasionally, an instruction. During the movie's scenes of ocular trauma (let's just say that those who got a kick out of the eye-slicing in Luis Buñuel's "Un Chien Andalou" should be tickled here), tattooed dead children and invasive surgical procedures involving rodents, you may very well wish to close your eyes, and perhaps keep them closed until safely on the sidewalk.

But those with a taste for twisted shivers may well find this film, based on a horror novel by Madison Smartt Bell, diverting, and its cast is certainly talented.

Movie review

Showtimes and trailer

"Close Your Eyes," with Goran Visnjic, Shirley Henderson, Miranda Otto, Paddy Considine. Directed by Nick Willing, from a screenplay by Willing and William Brookfield, based on the novel "Doctor Sleep" by Madison Smartt Bell. 110 minutes. Rated R for violence and language. Metro, Meridian.

Goran Visnjic, intensity personified, plays a hypnotherapist who's able to read people's minds; Shirley Henderson, she of the button eyes and helium voice, is a London cop who hopes he can help her quit smoking. When she learns of his special talent, she enlists his aid in the puzzling case she's trying to solve: a ritualistic serial killer who abducts children.

The two make an offbeat, morose pair, and for a while it's intriguing to follow them around London as they search for clues in crumbling buildings and oddball shops, with some other good actors popping up: Miranda Otto as Visnjic's exasperated wife; Paddy Considine ("In America") as a strange little man who runs a game shop under the train tracks.

But we don't get much of a sense of them as people — Henderson's semi-Goth cop, in particular, remains a black-clad cipher. (In the one brief glimpse we get of her home life, even her nightie is black.) And the creepy subject matter, much of which involves children, ultimately becomes stifling. By the end, it's all a mad swirl of needles, blood, head-bashing, mysterious symbols, screaming and overall nastiness.

You can't blame Henderson for needing a cigarette — this film is hard on the nerves.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or


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