The Eyes of My Mother is an uninvolving absurd horror movie, but it can’t also be denied that it’s acting, cinematography and matter-of-fact violence shows how something morally repugnant can look weirdly captivating and mentally scarring at the same time.

In their secluded farmhouse, a mother, formerly a surgeon in Portugal, teaches her daughter, Francisca, to understand anatomy and be unfazed by death. One afternoon, a mysterious visitor horrifyingly shatters the idyll of Francisca’s family life, deeply traumatizing the young girl, but also awakening some unique curiosities. Though she clings to her increasingly reticent father, Francisca’s loneliness and scarred nature converge years later when her longing to connect with the world around her takes on a distinctly dark form. [Magnet Releasing]

Idyllic rural towns are one of the most favorite settings in horror because they’re remote locations. A family can end up buying a farm and would have no idea of the massacre that happened decades ago until one of their kids Google it. But how much more sinister can a innocent looking barn be?

The Eyes of my Mother shows you exactly that, with its matter-of-fact violence and underplayed horror. In the opening sequence of the film, you have a blindfolded woman in chains walking on a road and then several minutes later a mother is giving anatomy lessons using a cow’s severed head on a dining table. Pretty soon the violence escalates and the screenplay shows you the aftermath instead of the act itself, stoking your own fears and imaginations to fill the gap.

This is captured through long takes and static compositions in black and white cinematography, which makes the proceedings effectively gory without the typical hack and slash sequences. In one scene she’s organizing neatly plastic-wrapped contents of her fridge which are not something you’d wanna cook for dinner.

The actresses who plays Francisca (the movie is divided into chapters) delivers stellar performances that even though its hard to watch her and she’s not a sympathetic character, you still want to know more about her.

While these elements turn The Eyes of My Mother into a technically well crafted movie, it’s evident that its strong visuals is hiding a weak story.

The plot shows us that Francisca was changed by a horrific act of violence but the little interactions with her parents – and the influence of their idiosyncrasies – also poses a probable cause and this event may have merely triggered something dormant. The story doesn’t give us much either way.

The rest of the story is absurd. A former surgeon somehow ends up in an isolated farm and a murderer happens to find it. Francisca is inflicted with crippling loneliness even though she can socialize well enough to get a girl. She’s desperate for companionship but enjoys killing people.

In fairness to the character, the screenplay can’t decide whether this movie should be a psychological horror or an arthouse thriller. The first half is set-up to make you contemplate about how trauma can turn a child into a murderer, but the screenplay decides to push this inexplicably evil individual with unconvincing motivations.

The result is a pointless series of random violence and grisly deaths that you’re thankful this movie is shot in black and white. In the end, the movie has nowhere to go but wrap things up with a contrived karma.

Still, it is a memorable horror movie. Nicolas Pesce is focused on sustaining the tone of a grim story and succeeds. He’s able to turn horrific events into intriguing and nightmare-inducing compositions. And for some horror viewers, that’s all they really need.

The Eyes of my Mother is the kind of story someone tells around a campfire in the middle of the woods. It’s absurd and illogical but the imagery is potent enough. At the least, it tells parents that the combination of unpredictable tragedies of one’s environment and clinical upbringing can lead to more than a few screws loose, so you may wanna buy an anatomy book instead of dissecting a cow’s eyeballs for homeschooling.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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