THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 16 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Disturbing Violent Content and Behavior, and brief Nudity

Directed by: Nicolas Pesce

Written by: Nicolas Pesce

Starring: Kika Magalhaes, Diana Agostini, Olivia Bond, Will Brill, Joey Curtis-Green, Flora Diaz, Paul Nazak & Clara Wong

Wow! Just wow! This is one fucked up movie! I don’t usually start off reviews like that, but THE EYES OF MY MOTHER floored me. Last year, EYES gained a lot of praise from the festival circuit and was released in December (of all months). Ever since it hit streaming outlets and home video earlier this year, I’d been hearing about how disturbing and crazy this film was. I was saving my first viewing of it for 31 Days of Horror 2017 and boy howdy, Nicolas Pesce proves that he’s one sick puppy with this directorial debut. In the space of a mere 76 minutes, Pesce crafts a horror tale that’s disturbing beyond words and will surely shock even the most desensitized viewers.

Meet Francisca. When she was a child, young Francisca (Olivia Bond) loved her dear surgeon mommy (Diana Agostini) and they bonded over removing eyeballs from farm animals. After a tragic fate befell her mother, Francisca took her surgical know-how and enacted a painful revenge on the man responsible for her mother’s death. Years later, an adult Francisca (Kika Magalhaes) is desperate for companionship and will do anything to raise a family of her own…including utilizing that twisted surgical know-how that I previously mentioned. This results in mutilation, shocking scenes, beautiful cinematography, and a nightmare that is sure to brutally beat its way around your brain for hours after this film ends. This is a messed up one, folks!

If EYES OF MY MOTHER was simply another cheap torture-porn flick that aimed to shock and did nothing more, then I wouldn’t be praising it all that much. Instead, this film is like an artsy take on TEXAS CHAINSAW type material and it’s a hellish ride that kept me glued to the screen from the dark beginning to the haunting conclusion. The black-and-white cinematography gives beauty to the film’s grisliest scenes and Pesce doesn’t revel in all of the gory details. In fact, he leaves the most brutal bits off-screen and merely shows us the horrifying aftermaths of certain deeds. The sound of a body part thudding on the floor or the anguished reaction of a mutilated victim are far more cringe-inducing than showing us all of the gory procedural work leading up to those moments.

That being said, EYES OF MY MOTHER wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does without convincing performances. Young child actress Olivia Bond sells her brief screen time as the younger incarnation of Francisca and gives us a glimpse into how this cinematic psycho was born. Then, Kika Magalhaes takes the reins as adult Francisca for a majority of the screen time. What’s truly impressive is that there’s a shadow of a sympathetic side to this terrifyingly deranged protagonist. Francisca went through a traumatic event as a child, had a not-so-normal upbringing, and doesn’t want to be alone. All of those concepts are completely understandable…until enter the barbaric actions that she executes with surgical precision. The nastier bits received many disgusted vocal reactions out of me, so think of Francisca as a female Ed Gein type and she’s just as crazy as you’d imagine from that description.

What’s also surprisingly impressive about EYES OF MY MOTHER is how well paced this entire film is. Earlier this month, I reviewed THE DEVIL’S CANDY and complained about how that film packed too many half-developed ideas into the space of 79 minutes. Here, EYES runs three minutes shorter than CANDY and masterfully spreads out its storytelling into different chunks of Francisca’s life. The entire film is definitely on the artsier side of things (which is a plus for me) and it isn’t for the faint of heart (as you might have imagined from my descriptions of the film’s disturbing bits). My sole complaint with EYES falls onto noticeably shaky sound quality during one major sequence, but that likely won’t stick out to anybody who isn’t paying attention to those technical aspects.

If you’re into really messed up movies, then THE EYES OF MY MOTHER is pretty much required viewing for you. This is a nightmarish piece of cinema that’s sure to linger in the back of your mind and send shock waves to your senses. EYES OF MY MOTHER freaked me out in the best way possible. This is a tour-de-force mixture of artistic filmmaking, a psycho character study, and nasty violence that very much feels like TEXAS CHAINSAW done in the vein of Lars von Trier. Take this review as either a recommendation to watch this film immediately or a warning to stay as far away from this film as humanly possible. You should already know what side of the fence you’re on.

Grade: A