Nicolas Pesce's The Eyes of My Mother is easily one of the most disturbing and beautiful horror films of the last year, but it's not for the faint of heart.
In a year full of lucrative Blumhouse flicks (The Purge: Election Day, Ouija: Origin of Evil) and arthouse Giallo (The Neon Demon), Pesce's shoestring-budget stunner is an impressive feat. First off, it’s a beautifully shot film and the black and white imagery was a great move. In colour much of the mystery could have easily been lost, whereas this way there's an element of doubt around every glimpse of potential gore, every pool of potential blood; there's a graphic exploitation missing and it renders the film disturbing in its uncertainty. Perhaps this is Pesce's biggest success: to convince us at points we are watching a nightmare through time jumps, conversational grotesquery, and pristine moments of terror.
The Eyes of My Mother feels like a painstaking loveletter to many horror classics, but never to the point it feels like a recital. Pesce has quite reservedly, nodded at his influences and forged his own disturbing fever-dream. There's elements of Psycho, Martyrs and, especially in the opening scenes, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Pesce's film feels like a postmodern dialogue on the nature of suffering, what it means to be a victim, and the cycle of abuse. There's some scares in here that stick with you way past the credits as ideological horror as opposed to nicely made monsters or well-conceived icky bits.
The Eyes of My Mother is perhaps most haunting when it points out how simple it would be to skew a child's moral compass, or how ridiculous the idea of closure is in terms of a horror film. The Eyes of My Mother is ace and, like the film's haunted cinematography, has a mesmerizing tranquility to everything, especially its most upsetting moments.
The gems of the last year have been unexpected “indie” projects which seem to erupt out of nowhere whilst the big studio produce has been fine for fun, but never really as disturbing. The Eyes of My Mother takes its place quietly, unassumingly along the bench from The Witch, The Boy and The Wailing. We'd love to call it a mind-fuck, but – like Martyrs before it - it’s more of a soul-fuck. There's nothing winking at us or jibing us to name the film, no smart-ass wisecracks, just a well conceived story about a horrible scenario.
If you’re down for upsetting yourself, look no further.
THE EYES OF MY MOTHER / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: NICOLAS PESCE / STARRING: DIANA AGOSTINI, OLIVIA BOND, WILL BRILL, JOEY CURTIS-GREEN, FLORA DIAZ, CLARA WONG / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 24TH
Expected Rating: 5 out of 10