Eye See You - Stallone's solid killer hunt with a difficult production history
With one exception, Sylvester Stallone has consistently stayed away from the horror genre, and the career of Eye See You may have thoroughly spoiled his desire to take further trips into the genre. Yet, the movie, which is much more of a murder-mystery than an action-packed thriller, is clearly better than its reputation. Director Jim Gillespie has also contributed expertise from his previous slasher success I Know What You Did Last Summer. While the first third may seem a bit bumpy and hasty, an entertaining and at times creepy thriller develops from the moment of arrival in the snowy nuclear bunker, which benefits from the setting that sometimes reminds of Alien³ and also features an amazing cast of charismatic actors. In addition to Stallone, Kris Kristofferson, Robert Patrick, Jeffrey Wright, Tom Berenger and Charles S. Dutton are among the cast. That's actually pretty smart, as the core element of the story is that the cop-killing serial killer reveals himself only at the end. Too bad that most of them are quite wasted and have little screentime. Interviews in the bonus material suggest that the actors seem to have more background knowledge about their characters than the viewer eventually learns in the finished film.
However, the test audience in the US, who was allowed to see the film freshly after completion, made such a devastating judgement of the version presented to them that the producing studio Universal Pictures quickly pressed the panic button and ordered additional filming in addition to changes in the editing room. There was also a new soundtrack score. But according to Stallone, who talked about the production process years later, the dilemma began just before the start of the shoot when the original producer withdrew. It continued in the form of creative differences between director Jim Gillespie and Universal. Parts of the adjustments were then also managed by director Ron Howard, who in addition to his own projects is kind of a crisis manager for Hollywood films in trouble (think of Solo: A Star Wars Story).
But even the new version, which in the meantime no longer bore the original title Detox or the interim name The Outpost, but was called Eye See You instead, could not convince a later test audience. For Universal, this was the last nail in the coffin in this matter, they left it in the vault for a while and finally released it as a limited release in only a few US cinemas, while it came to European cinemas in a somewhat larger form, at least in Germany under the title D-TOX (which, however, is not supposed to suggest that the original Detox version is the basis here). One could only guess what the original version of the film looked like - especially in works with Stallone's involvement there have been many quarrels and/or interventions, often caused by the star himself.
Detox - What are the differences in Jim Gillespie's Director's Cut?
Of course, the case of Eye See You has long been forgotten by almost all parties, but for posterity, retrospective insights are often nevertheless exciting. The fact that the new Blu-ray by the US label MVD / VCI Entertainment suddenly has the original Detox version by director Jim Gillespie on board is a rather rare stroke of luck in this context. Whether Gillespie, who didn't have a career worth mentioning after the movie, also supported it on his own initiative in order to achieve a kind of belated salvation of reputation for himself is not known, but it wouldn't be unreasonable either. However, he couldn't complain about a lack of encouragement from the actors. In several short interviews, which can also be found on the Blu-ray, they praise Gillespie's perfectly clear ideas about how he discussed the characters with them and how well prepared he was. So what went wrong between him and the producing studio?
If you now look at the film in both versions, it becomes clear that a classic comparison as we normally do it makes no sense. We therefore looked at it in rough, story-critical blocks, describing the relevant deviations and highlighting notable individual aspects. Our analysis shows that Gillespie's original vision of the film does not differ so fundamentally from the final version in terms of content. What's especially apparent is that he aimed for a completely different montage of the scenes, which is far more interlaced compared to the linear flow of the Eye See You version. If you want to keep track of the chronology of events with the help of the flashbacks that are interspersed over and over again, you have to follow the film in a much more concentrated way in the Detox version. The studio version is clearly more fluid here.
And also in terms of character development, the final version of the thriller scores better overall. Dialogue scenes are partly longer and the character of Jake Malloy comes across more human and likeable. That he really shoots at a policeman's corpse again out of frustration in Gillespie's version really is pure nonsense. The killer's philosophy, on the other hand, seems clearer and more comprehensible here than the weird talk about natural selection that he utters in the final version. By the way, this one is also cut more dynamically and not so static, because it doesn't drag scenes and shots unnecessarily, even though there isn't much happening in them. Finally, it has to be mentioned that the studio doesn't seem to have imposed any censorship either, as the two exclusive moments of violence in Gillespie's version aren't blatant outliers in the already rather suspense-filled movie. On the contrary, it's the final version that comes up with more violence by letting Stallone impale his opponent once again.
The conclusion is that one could suspect that they wanted to make the film more consumable for the US audience, with a clear, linear plot, more unambiguous character moments and a somewhat more spectacular final act. It's not that Gillespie's version has been made worse, because it isn't particularly convincing in comparison. Those who hoped for a different or better movie won't find what they were looking for in the Director's Cut and overall the intervention of the studio rather improved the movie's quality.
The theatrical version (Eye See You) was compared to the Director's Cut (Detox) (both included on the US Blu-ray by MVD / VCI Entertainment).
The opening credits of the EYE SEE YOU version start with the killer's confusing call to the police, in which he explains his mindset. Natural selection, there are only the options "win", "lose" and "death". And the police are a disturbing element in this process. If you remove them, man shows his true face, because he is not good by nature. The weak would be erased and that is what nature intended, so the police would have to make way. A collage of his headquarters with many badges as trophies and his handicrafts with newspaper clippings can be seen, he obviously has his eyes on Jake now.
The opening credits are strikingly different in the DETOX version. The montage and fade-ins are designed differently, but here, too, there is a call from the killer, but the content is much clearer. He hates cops, says they are no better than the criminals they chase. Immoral, disgusting. He finds it unfair that they are hierarchically above him and have power over him. And he's targeting Jake as lead investigator and making threats against him. How many would he have to kill before Malloy caught him, 10, 20, 100? He announces that he will kill everyone around Malloy and thus tear him into the abyss and he would watch him go down.
First cop murder
In the EYE SEE YOU version, Jake is excited to see the ring and is a little coy about the price, but then agrees to buy it. Change of scene to a pub, he is having a drink with his police colleagues in the evening and then has to justify himself that he hasn't caught the killer yet. Then he drives home to his fiancée Mary and the two of them have a harmonic conversation in which Jake indicates that he will soon ask her to marry him. Then the murder scene with the cop happens.
The DETOX version begins with the murder of the cop. This sequence is not very different from the EYE SEE YOU version, not even in the moments of violence. Then come the previously discussed opening credits with the killer calling. After that, Jake is driven directly to the bunker and taken into the facility. This also doesn't differ from the EYE SEE YOU version in terms of content, with the difference that there are several time jumps interspersed, like Jake drinking and discussing with the cops, coming to the crime scene with his dead cop colleague, waking up the sleeping Mary and talking to her and buying the ring. The last two scenes are significantly shortened and not so dialogue-heavy.
The next morning, Jake is called to the scene where the cop was killed. He is then called there by the killer who is about to kill Mary. Jake has to listen to this. In terms of content, the phone call between Jake and the killer differs greatly in both versions. In the EYE SEE YOU version, the killer says it's Jake's fault that the cop is dead. Then he announces that he's already standing outside Jake's house and rings the bell. He bets she has beautiful eyes. Then he drills through the peephole and Jake calls the house. The killer picks up the phone and tells Jake that four years ago Jake was investigating a series of murders of prostitutes and almost caught him. This had made his life hell and he could not understand why he was being hunted when all he had done was remove "diseased filth". And so he now takes his revenge by turning the hunter into the hunted, like in a game of hide-and-seek, and wants to use the remaining time he has left to terrorize Jake, including killing Mary.
In the DETOX version, the killer tells the address where he is at the moment even earlier and then bores his way through the peephole. He also picks up the house phone and says he's bored with the game, Jake hasn't been able to get a hold of him. The killer asks Jake if he has ever played hide-and-seek and then asks him what makes it fun. Jake reluctantly replies that it's the discovery of the fugitive, but the killer says it's the moment when the hunted stares at his hunter but the hunter doesn't see him. It's time the hunter became the hunted. Jake begs the killer to spare Mary more emotionally, but all he says is that she said she loved Jake. Then the phone call ends.
Hunt for the killer
By the time Jake gets to her, Mary's already dead. On a factory site, police have surrounded the killer and Jake is also heading there. He discovers the fleeing killer and goes on a chase with him, but even then he escapes. The EYE SEE YOU version is somewhat more lengthy as the police approaches and Jake spends more time staring around before he spots the killer in the distance. The hunt including the shootings is similar in large parts. When Jake enters a room in which the killer has draped all his trophies, he becomes aware of a noise in another room in the EYE SEE YOU version and storms into it shooting and hitting a person several times, who, however, turns out to be a hanged cop colleague. Jake realizes this quickly and is devastated.
In the DETOX version, the hunting sequence doesn't come until minute 36 because of the different narrative structure, but here, too, Jake is standing in the room, but it's not a sound that lures him into the next room. The killer is calling out to him from there, asking him if he thinks revenge would ease his pain and that he should find out after all. Then the killer shoots twice through the closed door so that Jake takes cover for a moment, but then also storms the room shooting. There is even a bit more violence to be seen here, as there is another close-up of a bloody bullet impact at the hanged cop. Jake stares to the ground afterwards, too, and in the off scene a woman's voice is heard, probably a psychologist, who also asks Jake if it would be enough of a satisfied revenge if he could look the killer in the eyes before the shot was fired. This seems a bit redundant, because it is almost the same thing that the killer was shouting to him before. Also, the character development is completely out of place when Jake, after a mini flashback to Mary, fires at the dead cop one last time out of anger.
General character development & relevant exclusive scenes
Exclusive in the EYE SEE YOU version: Three months later, Jake is a drunken, grieving mess. In the pub, his captain tries to talk him down, but that fails. Jake drives to Mary's empty house in the evening and, plagued by flashbacks of her, slits his wrists. Then follows the crossfade to the drive to the bunker.
Generally, the EYE SEE YOU version of Jake is a little more friendly and approachable. In the shed, he tells Jenny that he sees that she means well but should not waste her time and that she is wearing a scarf like his late Mary. Also in the bunker, he offers Conner to go for a walk or to confide in him if he wants to. In the DETOX version, he is much more distanced. What is striking - and a bit paradoxical - is that his voice sounds much firmer and harder in the EYE SEE YOU version, while he speaks more vulnerable and timidly in the DETOX version.
When Jake and McKenzie are talking in the washroom, Jake shows empathy for McKenzie only in the EYE SEE YOU version, who says that he is not a coward. Jake believes him, "sometimes you just have to remind yourself".
When Jake painfully thinks back to the moment when he wanted to take his own life, only the EYE SEE YOU version has a dialogue with Slater. Jake says he didn't know... and Slater ends the sentence with "how much you could miss someone." Slater then goes on to say that you can often draw strength from the hardest things.
Shortly afterwards, Jenny finds the dead Conner, of whom we get an additional, more distant view in the EYE SEE YOU version. After that, we see Doc, Hank and Jenny discussing how to proceed now. Hank says the storm makes it impossible to leave now, Doc says the phone line is not working and then decides to tell the others. Then the dead Conner is taken to the freezer and the cook makes another joke that he would rather eat only salad today. She also finds Conner in the DETOX version, but here he is brought directly to the freezer in a very unsentimental way.
The body of the dead cop in the ice hole is visible more explicitly in the DETOX version. But even then the trailer showed more, so it was hardly a real censorship background.
The murder of Manny is also a bit more showy in the DETOX version. You can see the bloody neck wound after the knife stroke before he tips over.
The killer mocks Jake differently in the DETOX version. Did Jake think the game was over? Where he went, the killer would follow him and vice versa. If Jake hadn't led him to the bunker, all the deceased would still be alive. First Mary, now this, how could Jake live with it? He said he was gonna break Jake. Overall, the killer's hatred for Jake seems more personal and Jake is also sadder for Mary. Also, during his bullying, the killer also escapes just before Jake shoots at him, but doesn't hit him. In the EYE SEE YOU version, the killer talks via walkie-talkie.
In the finale, the procedure is basically the same, but a significant change must be highlighted. In the DETOX version, the killer has Jake in a headlock and torments him again with Mary's demise, whereupon Jake starts to cry tears of rage and then breaks free. At the end of the ensuing fight, he pushes him onto the metal-tipped roller of the snow plough, where the killer then dies. In the EYE SEE YOU version, there is no Mary provocation before the fight, but only when the killer has already been impaled. Jake then pulls him away from there again, lifts him up in the air and throws him back on the roller so that he is impaled again and is finally dead.