Eye of the Devil

(J. Lee Thompson, UK, 1966)

BY LAURA KERN | November 30, 2023

Much folk horror pivots on the sacrifices that must be made for sacred, usually cursed land. And in the case of J. Lee Thompson’s wildly neglected Eye of the Devil, that responsibility falls to the men—which hasn’t exactly boded well for the Bordeaux-bred Montfaucon family. In the thousand years that they’ve inhabited their ultra-cinematic Gothic ancestral castle Bellenac, mysterious deaths have claimed 22 of their patriarchs. Philippe de Montfaucon (the unavoidably English David Niven, not even attempting to play it French) forsakes his noble ties by living in Paris, but is one night summoned back home, where the family vineyards are nearing ruin. His wife, Catherine (Deborah Kerr, taking over for Kim Novak, who’s still visible in some long shots), wants to tag along with their two young children, but he insists that it’s best he go on his own.

Though they should have listened, Philippe’s wife and kids decide to drive down the very next day. He’s initially nowhere to be found, and things just get weirder as Philippe begins to feel the pull of his inherited curse (“Am I seeking, or am I being sought?” he wonders). They’ve also entered the menacing company of Christian and Odile de Caray (David Hemmings and Sharon Tate, in her first credited film appearance)—strikingly blond siblings equipped with magical powers—and Père Dominic, a cagey priest played by Donald Pleasence. Some hooded figures are also lurking around, and the scenes depicting their pagan rituals are genuinely chilling (the leading Wiccan priest of his day, Alex Sanders, served as a consultant for these segments).

Totally stacked cast aside, the shining star of Eye of the Devil is its stark, inspired black-and-white cinematography, which perpetually moves about with unsettling effect. The German-born DP Erwin Hillier shot a few movies for Powell and Pressburger, but he’s remembered best for the 10 he made with Michael Anderson—who was at one point on board to direct Eye of the Devil, after replacing Sidney J. Furie and before dropping out due to illness. Thompson, who stepped in, is most revered for his action and adventure work but was just as persuasive a horror and thriller filmmaker, from his earlier Cape Fear (1962) to one of his later standouts, Happy Birthday to Me (1981). He was a master at crafting tension, as was editor Ernest Walter, who before Eye of the Devil had worked on terror classics like The Haunting (1963) and Children of the Damned (1964). Eye of the Devil may be a relic of the melodramatic ’60s, but however silly some of the proceedings may seem today, the film, which predates folk-horror staples like The Wicker Man (1973) by several years, stays devoted to its seriously spooky cause. Even so, it didn’t make much of a mark upon release, but it’s been creeping its way toward cult status ever since. 🩸


is a writer, editor, and horror programmer based in New York. She is the editor of Bloodvine and her writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Film Comment, and Rolling Stone.

X: @killerkern

How to see Eye of the Devil

The film’s haunting visuals can also be experienced on DVD and Blu-ray from Warner Archive.
(Robert Wise, UK, 1963)

The question of possession looms over The Haunting (1963), with regards to both Hill House, the labyrinthine Victorian mansion in which most of the action takes place...

BY JOSÉ TEODORO  |  September 10, 2023

(Mark Jenkin, UK, 2022)

It is springtime 1973, and the days are bright on a small island off the coast of Cornwall. A horticulturist (Mary Woodvine), known only as the volunteer, is the island’s sole inhabitant.

BY JOSÉ TEODORO  |  March 28, 2023

(Edgar G. Ulmer, USA, 1934)

A paragon of queer perversity, Edgar G. Ulmer’s unfathomable Universal horror hit gave major stars Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff two of their greatest roles.

BY MICHAEL KORESKY  |  June 13, 2022



(Victor Halperin, USA, 1933)

This pre-Code offering packs a lot of story into its typically brisk running time, with several plot threads weaving together a (not always successful) tapestry of spooky and criminal doings.


BY  ANN OLSSON  |  Month 00, 2021


The Keep

(Michael Mann, USA, 1983)

In what could be the fastest-resulting rape revenge movie, a drunken lout brutally forces himself on Ida, the young woman who doesn't return his affections, during a party over Labor Day.


BY  LAURA KERN  |  Month 00, 2021


We Need To Do Something

(Sean King O'Grady, USA, 2021)

Beast is a lot of movies in one package - fractured fairy tale, belated-coming-of-age story, psychological drama, regional horror film - but above all it's a calling card for its leading lady, Jessie Buckley.


BY  LAURA KERN  |  Month 00, 2021