The ability to make horror films is a learned skill. It’s pretty rare for a director to nail the genre right off the bat, like John Carpenter with Halloween, or Sam Raimi with the Evil Dead. With NIcolas Pesce’s directorial debut, he manages to not only completely understand the horror genre, but establishes himself as a filmmaker to watch.
Shot in spectacular black and white, The Eyes of My Mother tells the story of young Francisca and her family. They live together on a farm, and when terrible tragedy strikes, events are set into motion that will forever change Francisca, and how she deals with life and loneliness.
Some of the greatest horror films are those that really delve into a character’s personality, and there’s definitely a place for films about slow descents into madness. From a while back with May, and as recently as Darling, films have played into how loneliness and depression can affect people, mining chills from their inability to cope.
Francisca’s story is especially chilling, as you empathize with her. The things that she’s doing are horrible, but she’s so well developed that you completely understand her, and feel sorry for her. Kika Magalhaes’ portrayal is soft and genuine, creating a well rounded character that would give Norman Bates a run for his money.
The violence is kept to a minimum, but is made even more disturbing by what is not shown. The editing is masterful in when it cuts away, leaving an impact.
Also to be commended is Will Brill, whose unnerving performance in the early part of the film is delightfully unhinged. He is both able to pull of a subtle, quirky type of weird, as well as a full on psychopath.
This film was on quite a few best of lists for 2016, and it’s easy to see why. Its gorgeous cinematography, fantastic performances, and slow burn tension all add up to one of the most impressive directorial debuts in a long time.