The horror genre of film has always been divided into two camps: the typical cliché horror films starring and aimed at teens and the college crowd with plenty of “Boo!” moments, and films aimed at true horror fans who can be a tough crowd to please. Hardcore horror fans are always looking for something different, something original, and something that can scare even them.
Unfortunately, even that second category of horror films created for aficionados and armchair horror filmmakers has been infiltrated lately with many of the horror clichés. Most notably, paranormal groups that go into a situation where they find much more than they bargained for, college kids playing with Ouija boards, and the dreaded “found footage” genre, the genre that just won’t die.
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Not only does The Eyes of My Mother defy those horror clichés, but it stands apart in a category very few explore, and that even fewer explore successfully. This psychological horror film, released on DVD March 7, explores the potential ripple effect of psychological trauma at a very young age, and how the impact of meeting sociopathic evil can create something even darker and more disturbing.
The story centers on a young girl who witnesses her mother’s murder by a serial killer, but instead of getting any kind of help she needs to deal with the damage done psychologically, she’s kept in isolation and the crime is never reported. In fact, without giving away too much of a spoiler, she lives with a daily reminder of the violence that took place in her family home while she sat at the kitchen table.
The Eyes of My Mother generated a lot of controversy over the violence and content of the movie, but there is really very little gore shown on screen. What seems to have made many people uncomfortable enough to walk out of screenings seems to center around watching an innocent child become an adult monster.
The DVD has very few special features, with only some behind-the-scenes photos, the theatrical trailer, and an interview with the director, Nicholas Pesce. In this directorial debut from Pesce, there isn’t any director commentary on the film itself, but the DVD includes an interview and some special insight into the film, including the fact that Pesce drew the inspiration for the opening scene from a real-life memory with his mother. Fortunately, his life story diverged into a different direction from there.
While the descent into madness and murder plays an integral part of the horror of The Eyes of My Mother, the real heart of this horror story — and any good horror story — is the human emotion behind the horror. As Pesce says in the interview, this is basically a family drama, but more importantly, this is a drama showing how loneliness and despair can drive a person to madness, as much as any psychological trauma. Perhaps even more so.
Is it the murder of her mother that drives Francisca (Kika Magalhaes) to become a cold-blooded torturer and murderer? Or is it living in isolation in her black and white world, much like Dorothy before she lands in Oz?
The Eyes of My Mother was shot entirely in black and white, and for those of you who consider yourselves connoisseurs of the genre, you’ll be happy to know that this film has no Ouija boards in it. It has no stupid teens or college kids breaking into some place they’re not supposed to go to have a party. There are no paranormal groups doing fake paranormal shows only to find the real thing while filming an episode. And best of all, even though the film was shot in black and white in a sort of documentary style, there’s no damn found footage.
The Eyes of My Mother is the kind of horror film that gets under your skin, and if you’re someone who’s ever felt all alone in the world with no one left to turn to, you may find yourself almost feeling sympathetic for Francisca, who witnesses the murder of her mother, then years later struggles to let go of her deceased father, keeping his corpse around for company to combat her loneliness.
The real horror of The Eyes of My Mother is not only the horror of what humans are capable of, but the horror of being alone in a bleak world with no love or comfort.
[Featured Image by Magnolia Home Entertainment]