Monday, December 5, 2016

Nicolas Pesce's THE EYES OF MY MOTHER: horror often viewed at a discreet distance

Beginning with a scene on a country road in which the driver of a truck sees something untoward just ahead of him, and then taking us into the lives of one of the strangest families to be found on film, this new pristine, black-and-white movie makes Norman Bates look like a piker and shows up the Austrian oddity, Goodnight Mommy, as the artsy piece of schlock it is. THE EYES OF MY MOTHER will not be to everyone's taste (not even to all horror aficionados) but it ought to quickly take its place in the annals of quietly creepy, one-of-a-kind movies.

Its writer/director, Nicolas Pesce (shown at left), spares us much of the gore quotient possible here but none of the ghastly realizations of exactly what has been, is now, or soon will be going on. Believe me, these are lulus. And because they are often seen at a discreet distance, with music that quietly foments rather than knocks our eardrums silly, the result is often as breathtaking as it is horrifying. This is a film, no matter how "good" it may be, that you will not want to recommend to those who have trouble with the transgressive.

Eyes, surgery, cattle, obsession and a whole lot more make themselves felt in ways major and minor throughout the film, along with the bizarre behavior of not just the three principals in the family -- dad, mom and little girl -- but in the smiling interloper who sets into play the awful plot and then pays for it, bigtime, in a manner that may put you in mind of The Secret in Their Eyes.

You do not need plot details for a movie like this. Best, I think, if you're a horror fan, to simply approach it as tabula rasa as possible. The little girl (above) grows up into a young woman (below) who proves both one of the great horror villains and a characters who, given her fraught history, remains somehow vulnerable and (almost) sympathetic.

The cinematography (Zach Kuperstein) is stunning throughout, and the performances of every cast member on the nose. The logic of the film may leave something to be desired, but because The Eyes of My Mother has the strong, dark feel of a waking nightmare, you will probably forgive this (or not even notice) -- so simple yet propulsive is this relatively short (only 76 minutes) tale.

The behavior of our "leading lady -- the unusual but very fine Kika Magalhaes --  is so keyed to need, parenting (that's dad, being bathed, above), and socialization (the latter achieved, it would seem, via old movies, mostly noir, seen on TV) that whatever happens here seems somehow less over-the-top than the manner in which our "heroine" has most likely been raised.

From Magnolia's Magnet division, in mostly English and a little Portuguese with English subtitles, the movie opened this past weekend, December 2, in five cities and will hit another 14 this coming Friday, December 9, and even more over the weeks to come. Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters. Simultaneously, The Eyes of My Mother is available via VOD, Amazon Video and iTunes.

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