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Plot: reporter uncovers a grand conspiracy within the English government

An Italian conspiracy thriller that simultaneously rips off Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966), Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and British television series UFO (1970–1973) from a director that makes Alfonso Brescia, and Emimmo Salvi look competent in comparison. Mario Gariozzi was a hack on the level of Ferdinando Merighi, Pier Carpi, Ciro Ippolito, and Raúl Artigot. In the near thirty-year period from 1962 to 1993 Gariozzi was active as both a writer and director. Only Eyes Behind the Stars, the spoof Very Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind (1978) (with María Baxa and Mónica Zanchi), and The Brother from Space (1988) are the most remembered from his modest filmography. If there’s anything that can be said about Gariozzi it’s that his lovably dopey Eyes Behind the Stars (1978) probably ended up as one of the possible inspirations behind Chris Carter’s The X-Files (1993-2003), by far the most enduring property and the popular series of the 90s. On all other fronts Eyes Behind the Stars (1978) is stunningly, headscratchingly incompetent and then some. Not helping in the slightest is Franco Garofalo as the proxy-leading man early on.

During a fashion shoot in the English countryside photographer Peter Collins (Franco Garofalo) and his model Karin Hale (Sherry Buchanan) inadvertently capture evidence of extraterrestrial activity in the region. Collins realizes that something is afoot and embarks on an investigation of his own once Hale has bid her farewell. The photographer disappears and Hale offers the negatives to hardnosed cop-turned-reporter Tony Harris (Robert Hoffmann) after which she too disappears without a trace. The string of disappearances send Harris on an investigation on his own. Together with his assistant Monica Stiles (Nathalie Delon) he follows the clues where they take him and soon he’s conferring with ufologist Perry Coleman (Victor Valente). Not only has Harris to deal with the aliens neutralizing witnesses and evidence, but also law enforcement in the form of Inspector Jim Grant (Martin Balsam) who makes his investigation considerably more difficult. On top of that Harris has not only come in the crosshairs of the aliens but also of a clandestine government covert ops codenamed The Silencers whose leader (Sergio Rossi) is a high-ranking official. Is it all a grand government conspiracy and/or is there a traitor among Harris’ allies?

While the movie is headlined by Austrian actor Robert Hoffmann, there’s the prerequisite faded American star in the form of Martin Balsam, French import Nathalie Delon (one of the ex-wives of Alain Delon) as well as peplum, giallo and spaghetti western pillar George Ardisson and cult queen Sherry Buchanan. Balsam won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1965 and obviously he’s a far way from On the Waterfront (1954), 12 Angry Men (1957), Psycho (1960), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), Mitchell (975), and All the President's Men (1976). Sherry Buchanan never quite was a one-hit wonder like Belinda Mayne, Sarah Langenfeld, and May Deseligny but she never ascended to cult superstardom the same way as Caroline Munro, Barbara Bouchet, Rosalba Neri or Nieves Navarro either. Buchanan rose to fame with What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974) and Tentacles (1977) but sadly never managed to escape the muck of exploitation she made a name in. Among her more memorable undertakings are Last House on the Beach (1978), Zombi Holocaust (1980), Escape From Galaxy 3 (1981), and Tinto Brass’ Capri Remembered (1987). Like Evelyne Kraft her tenure in Italian exploitation was as brief as it was intense. By the time her star burned bright her career fizzled out without much fanfare.

Arguably Eyes Behind the Stars is a just a tad too ambitious for its own good. Mario Gariozzi’s screenplay contains enough material for two, nay, three features. The vanishing of photographer Franco Garofalo and his model Sherry Buchanan after they discover something fishy in one of their pictures is liberally borrowed from Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966). Eyes Behind the Stars only becomes interesting once Robert Hoffmann’s reporter character is introduced. Once ufologist Victor Valente and Natalie Delon join Hoffmann Eyes Behind the Stars turns into a conspiracy thriller that is dreadfully slow even by late seventies standards. Despite the aliens zapping witnesses and stealing evidence there’s no sense of urgency to any of the proceedings. At least the comparisons to The X-Files aren’t entirely unwarranted. Gariozzi has all the classic elements: mysterious disappearances, clandestine covert ops, government and aliens conspiring together and a massive cover-up. Yet none of it amounts to anything. Robert Hoffmann and Natalie Delon obviously were no match for David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Neither does the schmaltzy screenplay capitalize nearly enough on the covert ops The Silencers. Imagine what Antonio Margheriti, Sergio Martino, Umberto Lenzi, or Enzo G. Castellari could have done with a premise like this. Since Gariozzi doesn’t possess a fraction of talent Eyes Behind the Stars is not only terminally dull and completely uneventful but hideously ugly to look at to boot.

Had Eyes Behind the Stars been directed by Antonio Margheriti, Sergio Martino, or Enzo G. Castellari then it probably would have been a whole lot more lively and fast-paced. It was released in 1978 smackdab in between the still ongoing wave of foreign – and domestic Star Wars (1977) imitations and the nascent post-nuke craze following immediately in the wake of George Miller’s The Road Warrior (1981). Eyes Behind the Stars, for all intents and purposes, positions itself as a “serious movie” on the subject of UFOs, alien invasions, and government conspiracies. It makes the cardinal mistake of casting Franco Garofalo as the proxy-leading man and insists that Sherry Buchanan keeps her clothes on. Then again, Eyes Behind the Stars was produced by Armando Novelli. Novelli produced among many others, the kitschy gothic horror potboiler The Playgirls and the Vampire (1960), the giallo The Beast Kills In Cold Blood (1971) with Rosalba Neri, and a number of Fernando Di Leo movies, including his Milieu trilogy as well as a few erotic thrillers near the end of the eighties and early nineties. In a move that was bold even for late 1970s Italian exploitation standards Marcello Giombini’s score liberally plagiarized a very obvious motif from Jean-Michel Jarre’s 1976 Oxygène suite. Giombini doesn’t bother hiding his plagiarism by changing a few notes around but freely lifts the melody in its original form. In that sense it’s similar to the little seen Hong Kong-Taiwan ghost romance Ghost Of the Mirror (1974) with Brigitte Lin.

If it’s remembered for anything Eyes Behind the Stars is nearly as incompetent as Raúl Artigot’s failed gothic horror throwback The Witches Mountain (1975). This thing is as dull and uninvolving as these Italian potboilers tended to come. Somebody, anybody, could’ve made this a whole lot more interesting. Whether it was an experienced action movie director or even somebody like Andrea Bianchi, Umberto Lenzi, or Luigi Cozzi. Anything would have improved Eyes Behind the Stars from becoming the stillborn wreck that it is. What we're left with is the sort of tedious dross that not even the petite and always enchanting Sherry Buchanan can possibly liven up with her radiant looks. Poor Sherry could never catch a break. To go from something as hideously boring as this to the double-whammy of Marino Girolami’s Zombi Holocaust (1980), and Adalberto Albertini’s Escape From Galaxy 3 (1981) in just two years is a frightening prospect, indeed. Eyes Behind the Stars looks as if it was a lost Alfonso Brescia production. Hell, we’d go as far to posit that even Jess Franco’s worst from around this time were better than this hot mess. An interesting premise is one thing, but not even a miracle could save this one…

Plot: teen is targeted by a deranged serial murderer

Some movies just defy description. Others never deliver on their promises. The most fascinating are those that are so defiantly weird that they become their own category. I Know Who Killed Me is bad. Showgirls (1995) bad. The Room (2003) bad. 12 million dollars, 4 months of production, a former Disney child star in her first grown up role and a host of embarrassed television actors can’t possibly salvage what by all accounts was shaping up to be one hell of a trainwreck. I Know Who Killed Me is an affront to anyone’s sensibilities; cinematic and otherwise.

How is it possible that a movie trying so hard to be slick and sexy can be so unbelievably unerotic at the same time? I Know Who Killed Me wants, at any cost, to be sleazy. It yearns, no, desperately craves, to be trashy – but somehow manages to be more prudish than the average syndicated TV show. The thrills are never thrilling, the sexy scenes are so terminally dull, badly staged and unerotic that peeling your own eyes out becomes a tantalizing prospect, and the screenplay is so nonsensical and convoluted that they might as well have started filming without one. A rookie director, a first-time writer and a name-star well past her due date. Was there any way this could have ended well for anybody? I Know Who Killed Me was a failure of such collosal, epic proportions that it killed Lindsay Lohan’s career.

That I Know Who Killed Me was even greenlit for production is largely thanks to the then-still relative bankability of freckled redhead Lindsay Lohan. Lohan first broke to the big time with her dual role in the 1998 remake of Disney’s The Parent Trap (1961). That streak continued with another remake of a classic Disney staple in the form of the 2003 reimagining of Freaky Friday (1976), a role that earned her the award for Breakthrough Performance at the 2004 MTV Movie Awards. Lohan’s star truly rose with Disney’s Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004) and the sleeper hit Mean Girls (2004). From that point forward Lohan’s off-set shenanigans started to catch up with her as she was involved in a series of car accidents in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Her last Disney project Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005), the fifth (and, so far, last) installment of the Herbie franchise, was a production fraught with problems from Lohan’s side. Her on-set diva behavior and hard partying ways had become the stuff of legend and she had to be hospitalized with a kidney infection. Disney on their side spent a good fortune on visual effects artificially reducing Lohan’s famous bosoms because they apparently would distract too much from a talking car. Just My Luck (2006) put a dent in her career, overtaken almost completely by tabloid press and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and not even the Robert Altman comedy A Prairie Home Companion (2006) and the Emilio Estevez drama Bobby (2006) were able to pull LiLo from the path to self-destruction she had embarked on.

In 2007 production on I Know Who Killed Me, Lindsay’s much-publicized first grown up role, was halted as she had to undergo appendix surgery. Around the same time LiLo admitted herself to the Wonderland Center rehabilitation facility in Los Angeles for a month-long treatment. Her legal, personal, and substance abuse problems became so grave that during production she either showed up very late, or failed to show up at all. For the climax director Chris Sivertson was forced to use a body double to complete the project. Sivertson’s only prior credit of note was co-directing the 2004 remake of The Toolbox Murders (1978) and this remains Jeff Hammond’s first (and, likely, only) screenwriting credit. I Know Who Killed Me was nominated for a grand total of nine Razzies, or Golden Raspberry Awards, eight (Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Excuse for a Horror Movie, and Worst Rip-off, among them) of which it ended up winning. It was not screened in advance for critics for a very good reason. I Know Who Killed Me is terrible.

Sivertson knows his classics and desperately wants to mimic the style of Brian DePalma, Dario Argento, and David Lynch and fails spectacularly. I Know Who Killed Me is simply so uniformly and universally terrible on all fronts that you’d wish Jess Franco had directed it. Suffice to say I Know Who Killed Me all but killed Lohan’s once promising career. It heralded LiLo’s spectacular and very public fall from grace and her subsequent spiral into irrelevance. Almost immediately the ill-repute from I Know Who Killed Me spread like wildfire in the bad cinema blogosphere. It wasn’t until 2010 when LiLo hit absolute rock bottom as she alternated between time in jail and in rehab. In 2012 the inevitable spread in Playboy followed. In the decade-plus since I Know Who Killed Me, LiLo’s career, or what little that’s left of it at any rate, has shown no signs of improving. Chris Sivertson, inexplicably, remains active as a screenwriter and director.

In the idyllic upper middle class town of New Salem (Massachusetts? North Dakota? Illinois? New York? Pennsylvania? Does it really matter?) a young woman called Aubrey Fleming (Lindsay Lohan) - an aspiring young writer, naturally gifted pianist and grade-A student - has gone missing, causing great consternation to her parents Daniel (Neal McDonough) and Susan (Julia Ormond). Jennifer Toland (Stacy Lynn Gabel), an earlier abductee, was found horribly mutilated, tortured and very much dead. Fleming’s disappearance prompts an investigation by an FBI taskforce led by agents Phil Lazarus (Spencer Garrett) and Julie Bascome (Garcelle Beauvais, as Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon). One night a bloodied, mutilated girl named Dakota Moss (Lindsay Lohan) is found in the middle of nowhere. The agents, Aubrey’s parents and a psychiatrist question and later try to jog Dakota’s memory believing her to be a fabrication on Aubrey’s part as a defense mechanism to deal with her obvious trauma. As Dakota gathers the clues revealing a long-hidden sordid family secret Moss is able to ascertain who is the perpetrator behind the terrible slaying that continues to haunt New Salem, allowing her to at long last meaningfully mumble: "I Know Who Killed Me." No, it wasn't the butler, cos that is the only cliché that I Know Who Killed Me avoids.

To see beloved television actors as Gregory Itzin, Neal McDonough, Michael Adler, Brian McNamara, and Paula Marshall slumming it up waiting for the paycheck to clear, trying to maintain a straight face while sputtering their way through some of the most hackneyed Ed Wood-ian, near Tommy Wiseau-ian dialog imagineable is heartbreaking to say the least. Itzin, McDonough, Adler, McNamara and Marshall one and all are reliable television actors well above and beyond this kind of cinematic crapshoot. The other name star in I Know Who Killed Me is British expat Julia Ormond, who is under the mistaken impression that this is a serious movie. To see her cringe her way through the “mister Gervais” scene in the hospital is actively pain-inducing. Ormond, the poor thing, was in Legends Of the Fall (1994), Sabrina (1995), and First Knight (1995) in just the decade prior. Thankfully she redeemed herself with David Fincher’s multiple Academy Award nominated The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008) with Brad Pitt the following year.

Apparent YouTube sensation of the day Jessica Rose, “lonelygirl15” to the demographic this was no doubt marketed towards, plays a bit part as one of Aubrey’s friends. The rest of the no-name cast are either wooden or sleepwalking their respective roles. The screenplay is an epic display of undiluted incompetence. Jeff Hammond obviously looked at Planet Terror (2007), Captivity (2007) and Saw (2004) (on to its second sequel by 2007) for inspiration as I Know Who Killed Me features a pole-dancing lead character, loses itself in endless (and, frankly, tedious) montages of torture-porn and has a serial murderer antagonist with a predilection towards punishing his victims through elaborate revenge schemes and contraptions. Characters and plotpoints, big and small, disappear or are not followed up upon with alarming frequency and the symbolism is as subtle as a bull in a china shop. Rank desperation, that’s what it is. Chris Sivertson is a competent director, there’s no contesting. Not even he can save this hot mess of a screenplay.

I Know Who Killed Me desperately wishes it was an Italian giallo murder mystery. It has the sadistic killer in gloves targeting nubile women, it's more transgressive in its portrayal of sexuality than is usually the norm for Hollywood, one of Aubrey’s closest relatives and her family harbors a dark secret, and the red-blue lighting obviously takes after the best works of both Mario Bava and Dario Argento. To even things out there’s also a premature burial and the killer gets really creative upon his captive victims. It opens with a strip routine that looks like it was recreated wholesale from Jess Franco’s The Devil Came From Akasava (1971) and Vampyros Lesbos (1971) and then continues with more elegiac static strip routines that seem to take more after Diana Lorys in Nightmares Come at Night (1972) in the sense that they go nowhere and show nothing. Where old Jess had a chronic problem getting women into their clothes, I Know Who Killed Me found itself saddled with a diva who through contractual stipulations refused to get out of hers. It's exactly the sort of problem you'd never have with starlets like Misty Mundae.

La Lohan duly researched her all-important grown up role, taking up pole-dancing lessons in preparation and gloriously shot herself in the foot and into the hearts of sex workers everywhere with such eloquent, sensible and carefully worded declarations as, They're all whores, they're all whores . . . xcept for some obviously!", “strippers dude, I tell you, I really respect the cunts now. . . I'm not gonna lie to ya and letting candid bits of wisdom as rehab was a sobering experience escape her mouth. Even The French Sex Murders (1972) was more sleazy and, relatively speaking, there were far more sleazier gialli that decade. At least it had Barbara Bouchet. Lohan’s amputated extremities are probably the worst in a moderate budget Hollywood production in living memory. Her severed arm in particular is, somehow, less convincing (despite the obvious and expensive green-screen composit shots that it took to produce the effect) than Pier Luigi Conti’s not-really-a-stump in Jess Franco’s Eurociné jungle epic White Cannibal Queen (1980). The line “people get cut. That’s life” is on par with Everybody got AIDS and shit! from Showgirls (1995) and Tommy Wiseau’s “I did not hit her!” non sequitur from The Room (2003).

Who casts Lindsay Lohan and has her not take her clothes off? LiLo plays a stripper who wears far too many layers of clothes and whose routines seem to take ages. Lohan is given a shower scene and we’re not even treated to a lingering ass shot or a glance of sideboob? The average Andy Sidaris movie was spicier, Tinto Brass (who is a master technician) is sleazier through his innate artistry. Not to mention that the late Jess Franco had Romina Power, Susan Hemingway, and Katja Bienert suffering all sorts of unspeakable indignities and humiliations before they were even old enough to drink! Marie Liljedahl was barely 18 when she bared all in Joseph W. Sarno's Inga (1968). Mary and Madeleine Collinson had been flaunting their twins for a good two years before they landed the titular part in Twins Of Evil (1971) and they were barely 19. Renato Polselli and Luigi Batzella made entire features during the wicked and wild 1970s wherein Rita Calderoni barely wore any clothes. It’s depressing on how many levels that I Know Who Killed Me fails in the most obvious of ways. It’s certainly an achievement when the works of Jess Franco and the Eurociné repertoire become a viable alternative. I Know Who Killed Me is such an awesome concentration of pure wretchedness that, somehow, some way, the alternate ending is even worse than the theatrical one. I Know Who Killed Me is a Lovecraftian monstrosity of such staggering proportions that if you gaze into it long enough, a glassy, empty-eyed Lindsay Lohan will stare right back at you…