Horror as a Genre has had its ups and downs.
There are so many iconic Horror films made both on larger budgets or for next to nothing. Big productions or made on handheld cameras. It is a Genre with a wide spectrum of styles and narratives. The current trend of Horror films seems to be excessive gore, mystery backstories and being released in series of eight-hundred. Arguably an iconic Horror has not been made in a while, so is the Genre in a rut?
Yet the better Horror films of the last few years are one’s audience must search for with smaller releases. Films like The Witch and It Follows. If you are bored of the recent scare-fests and you want a horror film that stays with you long after it has finished, then the debut film of Nicolas Pesce may be for you. The Eyes of My Mother is a haunting yet violent tale that feels fresh in the sea of sequels and spin off Horrors.
Young Francisca lives an isolated existence with her mother and father on a farm. Her unconventional upbringing includes her mother teaching her how to remove eyes and other organs from dead animals. One day, a salesman called Charlie comes calling at their home who Mother lets in the house, against her better judgment. This error leads to tragic consequences yet Father and Francisca carry on unaffected. As time goes on Francisca is left alone but just what happens when a girl with her past and knowledge is let loose in the world?
The film is the debut of director Nicolas Pesce who also wrote and edited the film. Pesce has no former filmmaking credits to his name but has worked as crew on productions. Despite his inexperience, he has produced a solid and stand-out debut with The Eyes of My Mother.
The story is told in a three-chapter sequence, Mother, Father and Family. Each chapter examines a relationship with Francisca and the world in which she lives in. Each section climaxes with harsh violence and an almost unbiased view on events. The film is a window into a cold world which occasionally collides with our own. The films use of excessive and prolonged violence will divide audiences but this is a well told narrative, even if it is an uncomfortable watch.
The film is clearly made on a micro-budget and shot in black and white. Whether this was a budget constraint or a stylistic choice, the outcome has been making a grim tale all the more eerie. All shadows feel menacing and every line becomes a sharp edge, thanks to the monochrome aesthetic.
The filmmakers have also used almost no outside sound giving the film a natural feel. Silence can stretch across scenes and all noises feel amplified in the world of the film. Wind rustling, food being eaten to later chains dragging and knives plunging. All this adds to the eerie and isolated tone of the film.
Much of the film’s success is down to its lead actress Kika Magalhaes. Able to hold scenes by herself for long periods of time but also playing the role with real duality. Francisca is played as an innocent character, genuinely alone and who does not truly feel the horror of her actions. Yet as the film progresses her real darkness emerges. Set against her appearance of an unthreatening and pretty young woman, the character is a fascinating and uncomfortable watch.
An eerie, slow burning and haunting tale. The level of violence will turn some audiences away but this is a strong film and an impressive debut. Nicolas Pesce is a filmmaker to watch out for.