Times have changed. Once upon a time, receiving a random EMail or snail mail invite to a game show would be a curiosity. Something to maybe look into - but also be aware of the ever present scammer. That final piece of fine print asking for a credit card number to secure your spot on the show. Now however, with reality game shows broadcast all the time it seems, everyone is waiting for the next "Big Brother" or "Survivor" hit - and to be part of it. The weirder the better. Misleading your family and friends about where you are going, because some new show is going to be a surprise hit? Of course! Why not! No digital devices of any kind? Damn! This is going to be a great show for sure - count me in! In today's world, everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame and most, will forfeit common sense for even the smallest chance to be part of the next big thing. Who would have thought?
This is where Oliver Cane's film "Eyes And Prize" comes into play. Pun intended. Take everything I've written above, and introduce four strangers to a camera infested house. There are locked doors - and the windows are blocked off. The fridge and cupboards are stocked with food and everything looks as expected. At first. Eventually however, two of the remaining contestants begin to fear the worst. Maybe this isn't a reality game show? The worst of it? Nobody knows where they are or what they are doing. Is the Eyes and Prize game a real thing? Or do we have a "Saw" like situation going on. The only way to find out? Watch the film.
I definitely have to give credit where credit is due. Oliver Cane has taken a great idea, gathered the little cash he could, and went to work creating a great indie flick. Oliver himself doesn't get all the credit, whoever was involved with production, and of course, the excellent cast all deserve standing ovations. This is a textbook example of a great film being made on a micro budget - using the minimal and crafting it into the story itself. "Eyes And Prize" is like that slow climb to the top of the roller coaster - and then the final fall straight off the edge. Perhaps the slow build isn't for everyone... but I loved it.
Other than the craftiness of tailoring and pairing a low budget to the actual look of the film, where "Eyes And Prize" really excels is the acting - and dialog. Especially the dialog. These characters feel real. Like they really think they are contestants in a game show. Conversation is messy. Something so many indie filmmakers forget. Instead of the person A talk - person B answer conversations I'm used to with low budget films, I get the full experience of messy, overlapping conversations. Ones that feel real with no hint of a script. I can find no faults with any of the acting in this film. From anyone. Joy, sadness, fear and anger are all represented when they should be. Properly, gritty and believable. I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty... but damn. Excellent job.
With that said, I do think maybe, just maybe, some may find this film a little slow. I personally enjoyed the build up but many movie goers love a quick tempo. Clocking in at around an hour and a half, "Eyes And Prize" doesn't look all that long running - on paper. But when you consider it all takes place in one room - it's easy to see the length feeling a little longer. For the impatient types, watching the first fifteen or so minutes, then fast forwarding to the last half hour will give you pretty much the same experience as watching the entire film. I don't recommend this, but if you're the type who gets bored quickly - this isn't a film to reject after a few minutes. Truthfully, a lot of the content in the middle could have been condensed into a montage without hurting the story one bit. Condensing the film would have excluded the coveted feature film status, but perhaps it would have been a stronger film. A directors cut could always have been introduced. Right? As I said, if you enjoy the slow burn you'll have no problem here - and may actually appreciate the long haul.
At the end of the day? Anyone who loves classic films, where the pacing wasn't quite as crazy as it is now, will really enjoy this. The story is a great one, the acting is top notch and the slowly building tension is just awesome. I also loved the open nature of the ending - but enough about that. Perhaps not for the person used to lightning fast editing and pacing, but with a little patience, I'm almost certain they'll love this picture as well. A solid four stars in my humble opinion. Well done.