Sunday, October 1, 2017

31 Days of Horror: The Eyes of My Mother

Directed by Nicolas Pesce.
2016. Rated R, 77 minutes.
Kika Magalhães
Paul Nazak
Flora Diaz
Will Brill
Diana Agostini
Olivia Bond
Clara Wong
Joey Curtis-Green

Francisca (Kika Magalhães) spends a lot of time at home alone with her mom (Diana Agostini) on their farm while her dad (Paul Nazak) is working long hours elsewhere. Mom is a trained surgeon who teaches her curious daughter all the tricks of that trade by having her practice on slaughtered cows. One day, a traveling salesman named Charlie (Will Brill) shows up and murders mom. While Charlie's finishing the job, Dad shows up, injures Charlie and drags him to the barn and chains him up. Little Francisca removes the man's eyes and vocal cords, which she puts in the refrigerator. She and Dad then bury mom in the backyard and go on about their lives without much addressing what happened. Fast forward a number of years and Francisca is still keeping Charlie alive in the barn as a pet of sorts. Meanwhile Dad has died and she's keeping his body in the house. Needless to say, the girl has some issues. The one she can identify herself is loneliness. Therefore, Francisca venturing out in search of companionship ensues.

The first thing we notice about The Eyes of My Mother is that the film is shot in black and white. Since it's a 2016 film, that immediately raises the question of whether this was done for artistic or economic reasons. I can't say for sure, but from an artistic standpoint, it's a perfect choice. The look combines with the overall minimalist approach to create a dreadful tone. That minimalist approach starts with the sparsely written script. Many scenes include silence where other films would feature characters giving us plenty of expository verbal histrionics. Not having those allows this movie to continually show and not tell. We in the audience have to work a little bit involving us in the story. Adding to that silence, and the tone, is the absence of a score. During those quiet moments we're left pondering the tale that's unfolding, in a good way.

The performance of Kika Magalhães also adds to the tone. She manages to make us pity her even when logic tries to tell us we should be rooting against her. To an extent, we are. However, we also understand the reasoning behind her behavior which has gone unchecked, even encouraged, since she was a small child. This ensures that no matter how heinous her actions, there is a small part of us that can't completely condemn her. This is key to making the film work. Having us side with her solely as a hero or against her as villain would rob the movie of the emotion needed to carry the procedings. Our inability to totally rebuke her causes conflict within ourselves. That conflict is unsettling, to say the least.

To keep our internal battle raging, The Eyes of My Mother forgoes trying to frighten us through jump scares and gore. In fact, most of the violence happens off-screen. What little is shown is shot in a way that visually obscures what is happening. We hear it, but squirmish types are spared most of the blood and guts. Instead, it goes about its business by being an intensely creepy film. It's about a young woman who wants the most human of things, someone to reciprocate her affections. However, she goes about it in the most inhumane ways. We know how we should feel about it, but aren't sure we do. The ending, then, gives us a sense of relief, not because it's a bad movie, but because we no longer have to fight to keep ourselves from siding with the villain.

Well boys and girls, this is my first post for my 2017 version of 31 Days of Horror. It's an annual tradition for me. I try to post something horror-related every day during the month of October. I may not quite be able to reach that level of output this year, but I'm certainly going to try. And everything I post will have something to do with the genre, whether it's movie reviews, lists, or some other commentary.

By the way, a big shout out goes to Rodney at Fernby Films for designing me a snazzy new header just for the occasion.

Click below for more posts about disturbed individuals


  1. What a great film to start this out with! I'm looking forward to the rest of your posts. I felt pity for Francisca for the first half of the film, everything she does in the 2nd was a big FU and so disturbing.

    1. Thanks for putting it on my radar. I most certainly first heard of this from your review. And it's very disturbing.

  2. This is a film I really want to see as I've heard a lot of good things about it.

  3. This sounds like one I should track down.

    1. I really enjoyed this one. If you have Netflix, they are streaming it.

  4. Whilst I can appreciate the style of this film it left me a bit ambivalent towards it. Some great, creepy, unnerving moments but the rest I wasn't keen on. Great review on this film though. Nice to give it some spotlight!

  5. Oh my god this movie. It's so damn dreadful but so well made. Very effective for what it sets out to do, but I don't think I'll be rewatching it anytime soon haha.

    1. Dreadful and well made sums it up quite nicely, lol.