Updated: Oct 12, 2020
I reviewed this film once before on my old website, but that review was unfortunately lost back in the Great Balzer Hissy Fit of 2016, so I figured, "What the hell?" Let's do it again for a new audience.
I know I've mentioned before how much I love anthology films. When you have a short attention span like I do, sometimes you like to get your horror fix in bite-sized portions to get more bang for your buck.
And although I'm not quite as obsessed as many of my peers, I do enjoy the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe's works have been adapted for the screen countless times over several generations of cinema, but rarely has it been adapted in such a gory fashion as today's film. From horror legends George A. Romero and Dario Argento, let's take a look at 1990's Two Evil Eyes.
Our first story in this duology of terror is "The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar." The wife of a dying man visits his attorney to liquidate some assets. The attorney is skeptical at first but is assuaged when he speaks to his client on the phone. Unbeknownst to him, however, Mr. Valdemar is being controlled by his physician who is also a mesmerist. The doctor and Mrs. Valdemar are certain their plan to rob the dying man of his riches will succeed until the old man suddenly dies while under hypnosis. This complicates matters, but the lovers decide to hide the body in the freezer until all of the paperwork goes through. All seems well until the widow hears a familiar voice calling from the freezer in the basement.
CONTENT WARNING: "The Black Cat" contains multiple scenes of animal torture. The film ends with a full-screen message from the Humane Society stating that no animals were harmed or caused any distress in the making of the film. If you are sensitive to such imagery, however, you may wish to skip "The Black Cat."
In our second tale, "The Black Cat," a photographer named Rod Usher is tormented by a stray black cat taken in by his girlfriend, Annabelle. The cat shows an immediate dislike toward Usher, a sentiment which the photographer returns. When Usher tortures and murders the cat, Annabelle suspects his actions and chooses to leave him. When the cat unexpectedly returns, alive and well, Annabelle confronts Usher before he can do it any more harm, but Usher kills her in the struggle. Panicked, Usher conceals Annabelle's body in the wall and begins laying the foundation for his alibi, but like the eponymous House of Usher, it all comes tumbling down.
Of the two stories presented in Two Evil Eyes, "The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar" is my favorite. Not only does the story feature human monsters that Poe is so well-known for, but we get some zombie action as well, which is always a treat whenever Romero is involved. Not stopping there, though, the story explores the idea of life after death beyond this plane of existence. When the others use Valdemar's corpse as a conduit to enter our world and he moans his final warning to Hoffman, it's utterly chilling. When Tom Atkins appeared as a cigar-chomping detective, I half expected him to say, "Thrill me" in reference to his role in Night of the Creeps. I'm a little disappointed that he didn't.
The second story, "The Black Cat," is actually a bit of a grab bag of references to multiple Poe stories. There are elements of "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Fall of the House of Usher," and I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting at the moment. It's clear that Argento had fun with this one, and as soon as I saw Tom Savini, who has a small uncredited cameo in this story, I knew instantly that he had a hand in the special effects. Without spoiling the ending, I will say I wouldn't advise watching this one on a full stomach. Harvey Keitel is phenomenal in the role of the rapidly unravelling Rod Usher, and while this story isn't my favorite in the film, his performance is.
It's hard to go wrong with Poe, the undisputed master of the macabre, and Two Evil Eyes lovingly adapts his work for a modern setting and a modern audience while giving us some wonderful comeuppance endings horror anthologies are so well known for. If you get the chance, I highly recommend this one. Two Evil Eyes is currently available free with advertisements on both Vudu and Tubi.