Blink (1994)

Director: Michael Apted

Starring: Madeleine Stowe, Aidan Quinn, Peter Friedman

Release date: January 26 (US). I’ve heard several positive murmurs about this one on here since it crashed onto my list, so I’m going in with hopes raised. May contain graphic eye surgery and spoilers…

As serial killer plots go, Blink is pretty intriguing. Emma Brody (Madeleine Stowe) is a blind woman who is given a cornea transplant. She can see! Well, after a fashion – everything is kind of distorted and blurry, with only isolated moments of clarity at this early stage of recovery. Also, Em retains images she has seen the day before, ‘perceptual delay’ I think the Doc calls it. For example she ‘sees’ her friend Candice (Laurie Metcalf) visiting her in the hospital… except Candice isn’t there, her visit was yesterday and it is only the nice Doctor Pierce (Peter Friedman) toddling into her hospital room. Back home in her apartment building having been discharged, Emma ‘witnesses’ a killer leaving the scene of a crime, for her rude neighbour upstairs has been done in. Her new eyes cannot conjure a face for police, but she does notice a pungent soapy smell drifting along in the suspect’s wake…

Blind – preferable to being able to see Aidan Quinn’s arse

The people here aren’t all that likeable. Take Emma, she fiddles in a folk band for kicks. She’s initially sympathetic; it’s not nice seeing the soon to be deceased neighbour cruelly pull a face at Emma (although Em will see that, just a day later). We see her overcome with emotion on the day she gets her sight back, share in her tearful elation. Then we see another side to Emma. She throws booze down her throat and breaks things; there’s violence inside her. I think it’s because Emma is more like her mother than she cares to admit, the mother who took her sight away by smashing young Emma’s face into a mirror. Her early joy at being granted a second chance of returned vision has all but evaporated; the world is ugly to her, she sees no beauty anywhere. ‘Ungrateful bitch’, I told the screen at one point. Of course you can’t dislike her entirely because she is in transition, there is a lot for her to take in and get used to, a lot of things in her past to let go. But it’s still incredible to see her march into the cop shop to find Detective John Hallstrom (Aidan Quinn), demanding to know why he’s been avoiding her. Like it matters when there’s a serial killer on the loose and it’s his job to catch the crazy sumbitch. She’s acting like a complete tool by this point.

I’d ask for a refund, Emma…

John, too, is a proper knobhead, cynical and shallow. When we meet him, he is drunkenly stripping off in a bar while Emma’s band is on stage fiddling up a storm. Later, he mocks a victim in front of his disgusted partner, Ridgely (James Remar). How did this bloke ever get to be a detective? In the face of it John and Emma are made for each other, but it’s like mixing two volatile chemical compounds. There is a connection between them, a sexual frission and it is she who turns pursuer. In an uncomfortable scene, Emma starts smashing light bulbs when John tries to turn on a lamp. When she lashes out, he has to use force to calm her down; they get too close and she makes a broad pass at him. John wants her (who wouldn’t) but he’s driven into retreat, unaccustomed to being pursued like an object. Emma mocks him when he resists her. She goes on a date with eye surgeon Pierce; she’s using him to get under John’s skin. After the doctor has taken her home, Em sends him on his way knowing that John is watching from a parked car. She leaves the door to her apartment open… This relationship is incredibly real; Stowe and Quinn have that special chemistry going on. Emma and John are almost predatory in their pursuit of each other.

“Okay. Fine. Ignore me. But that night we all spent together in the water bed… it meant nothing to me. Bastards.”

There’s some sparky stuff in the build up; when she goes to the police station to report the odd goings-on at her apartment, if a bit contrived picking John out because she likes the sound of his voice. He discounts her evidence abruptly by testing her eyesight, asking her to read a sign across the room; “Fuck you, detective,” she spits. Cool as cucumber he replies; “No, that’s not what it says.” And later, when John is trying to interview her about the dead girl upstairs, Emma displays utter contempt (understandable given her treatment down at the station) as he tries to establish the name of the girl’s boyfriend. Emma tells him she only ever hears them through the wall, fucking; “Do you know his name?” He persists; “Oh, baby,” she responds impassively.

It takes awhile for something touching to occur, so much so that it lands with extra weight. Emma admits that she could fall in love with him and John reacts with surprise, sort of like a teenager again. It is then sickening when these two go head to head at the station. John, starkly reminded of his obligations to the investigation when a victim’s spouse says to him; “What have you been doing down there? Why didn’t you catch him?” The popular view: because John has been fixated on ‘evidence’ from a ‘blind’ woman instead of doing what he’s paid to do. It shakes him up, clears his head, and that’s when Emma bursts in ranting, seeming to forget there’s a killer out there. Emma’s selfish needs drive them to violence of deed and word. Worse, the words are a lie.

They both enjoyed Emma’s fiddling – that’s why you can’t see their hands

But, yeh, John’s obsession with Emma has blinded (irony) him to the killer in their midst. He is sure Emma holds the key, is ridiculed by colleagues for his insistence that a woman whose sight resembles the reflection in a funhouse mirror can give them solid evidence. As an audience you can see their point. But John locks onto a clue that everyone has missed; Emma’s mail is incorrectly sent to the wrong room number in her building, the room, in fact, where her neighbour was murdered. Was Emma the real target? Is she still? Are these really hallucinations she’s been having, or is she being stalked?

Blink is better than it has any right to be. For me, the finale isn’t satisfactory. The action reverts to formula with a surprisingly static climax which is a shame because I felt the action was heading for something more graphic. Instead, it’s more of Emma’s Predator vision (an exceedingly drunk Predator) substituting genuine tension and to be honest, I’d got tired of the wibbly-view halfway through the film already. The killer when revealed, though it’s an ingenious motive, didn’t have any impact. We’ve seen several instances where the face Emma is seeing morphs into somebody else and I was waiting for that to happen – there are more than enough red herrings to lead us on in that respect. I’m trying to give away as little as possible here, not a discipline that comes easily to me!

I think she just watched ‘The Incredible Shrinking Woman’…

Madeleine Stowe is really, really good. She’s projecting a range of emotions that managed to push a number of my response buttons all the way through the film. It’s a testament to her skill as an actress that I was still with her at the end despite her through-line being anything but the fearful, vulnerable female, yet prone to bursts of panic – including a mental train sequence as her senses get pelted with hallucinatory imagery of her young self and her mother. Aiden Quinn, an actor I’ve never previously rated, walks a tightrope of mean early on but then displays a solid grasp of what he needs to do. You can see the character change happening in front of you, a previously unresponsive cockwomble allowing his emotions to come forward, then realising he can’t function without his hard nose, but he can’t balance it, one or the other; he’s suddenly on a learning curve. He and Emma have surprised each other but you know their relationship will be a proper rocky one if continued beyond the investigation. I bet they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Blind woman + gun = Polyfilla

Well directed by Apted and Dante Spinotti brings a load of atmosphere – it’s a rare film where it’s logical for the main character to leave the lights off all the time! The supporting characters aren’t developed but they don’t need to be. James Remar seems to be the least cynical of the bunch (and an underrated actor in my opinion) and Laurie Metcalfe shares a great exchange with Emma having witnessed John’s impromptu striptease at a gig at the beginning of the film; “It was a great big anatomy lesson,” she explains. “How big?” Emma loves the cock! And the diddly-diddly music suits her perfectly.

Good film I suspect will get better with subsequent viewings.




I’ll go for 3 Eye Charts out of 5.



Cheers, folk.

ThereWolf, May 2012

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About ThereWolf

I only come out at night... mostly...

16 responses to “Blink (1994)”

  1. tombando says :

    Who was that brunette in the ‘Waterbed’ pic? Familiar. This sounds pretty good, I like Stowe. Quinn got pulled over for drunk driving in Maine 15 yrs ago…Empire Falls.

    • ThereWolf says :

      I don’t even know her character name, Tom – so dunno who the actress is, I didn’t recognise any other names.

      Very good, this. Stowe puts in a shift and Quinn has gone up in my estimation. Poor bastard was in ‘Jonah Hex’ wasn’t he…?

  2. Xiphos0311 says :

    I’m surprised I missed this one since I find Madeline Stowe to be very Hubba Hubba.

    • Jarv says :

      Me too.

      I rate this film, genuinely. I’d have been well chuffed if it had come up on my list. Totally underrated. Stowe is superb in this as well.

      Wolf’s right, it gets better on repeated viewings, and he’s also right about the end, which is a bit of a letdown.

      One thing he didn’t mention is that the killer is really good as well- creepy as fuck “You have her eyes”, brrrrrr.

    • ThereWolf says :

      Well, Xi, you’d be wise to check it out – Stowe gets topless!

      Tastefully done, mind.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        of course it was tastefully done. The sweater meat had to breath and were needed to service the story.

  3. Droid says :

    This is a good film. Haven’t seen it since the 90’s. I always liked Stowe, in Stakeout, Unlawful Entry, Mohicans, 12 Monkeys. And I also like Aidan Quinn, in Stakeout (as well!), Benny and Joon, The Assignment.

    There was also another blind girl vs serial killer movie around this time. With Uma Thurman and Andy Garcia, called Jennifer 8. I don’t really remember it, but I have the feeling it was okay. It was directed by Bruce Robinson. Might see if I can find these for a blind chick double bill.

    Good review, wolf. But what’s the french connection here?

    • ThereWolf says :

      Cheers, R2.

      I’m sure I’ve seen ‘Jennifer 8’ – can’t remember it.

      The French connection is that the assistant to the production accountant’s craft service foreman’s hair stylist once saw a croissant.

  4. Jarv says :

    As mentioned, this is a cracking film. Storming, actually.

    It does improve on multiple viewings as well.

  5. Just Pillow Talk says :

    I remember when this came out by passing on it because I figured it would be, well, not good. Guess I’ll have to keep an eye out for it. I don’t want to blink and miss it while flipping through channels.

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