The Eyes of My Mother
The black and white 2016 film The Eyes of My Mother is a quietly crippling horror tale of isolation and cruelty. It would be easy to write this off as a self-conscious art film given the black and white shooting and mix of English and Portuguese. The art house veneer is allows the story to be so disturbing, to bask in it darkness.
Divided into three sections, we are given the story of Francisca (as girl played by Olivia Bond, as a woman played by Kika Magalhães). Her mother is murdered by a passing stranger in their farmhouse. Francisca’s father comes home to discover the murderer dismembering her mother’s body, captures him and chains him up in their farm’s barn, and then buries his wife with his daughter’s help. Francisca then mutilates the imprisoned murderer taking his eyes and vocal chords. He is kept as a prisoner for years until Francisca is a young woman. The death of her father leads an acutely isolated and lonely Francesca to turn down a ghoulish path.
As a portrait of desperation, this film is intense. The camera work is stunning and the balance within scenes, the blocking, is superb. There are no jump-scares, soundtrack swells, and very minimal on camera violence. The effect is chilling as the story becomes more and more grotesque and distressing.
I found this film at once pleasing and utterly terrifying in its casualness. It’s un-rushed nature made it shocking and surprising at almost every moment. The vast empty that is rural America makes this farmhouse terror viscerally real dredging up an ever lurking Ed Gein evil. The beauty of this film is existentially crushing.
One of the best horror films I’ve ever seen–intense, artful, terrifying, and moving.