The Eyes Of My Mother (2016) Review: Laughably Disturbing

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The best kind of bad movie is the one that takes itself so seriously, despite it being full of shit. The Eyes Of My Mother fits the above description in every way imaginable – which makes it even more fucking hilarious than it has to be.

The Eyes Of My Mother follows Francisca (Kika Magalhaes) as she grows up after witnessing a violent tragedy befall her family when she was at a young age. The movie shows Francisca’s life from childhood to adulthood, focusing on how she copes with the concepts of love and life’s fragility.

If you ever wanted to see how predictable, juvenile scares could somehow pass as high class art to some film critics, then look no further than the artistically masturbatory bullshit that is The Eyes Of My Mother. 

Artistic Yet Basic

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One look at The Eyes Of The Mother is more than enough to know what it really is at its core: an exploitation horror film. From a mentally disturbed serial killer to an isolated farmhouse to way too much Freudian bullshit, The Eyes Of My Mother has all the trappings of a gory, seedy movie from the ’70s. Normally, I would love a movie for adhering to the days of the self-indulgent grindhouse days since the sub-genre’s existence is a nice, heartfelt “Fuck You” to the self-proclaimed cinematic elite and moral guardians who can’t understand the concept entertaining, cathartic and fictional violence.

But what makes The Eyes Of My Mother stand out and be the exception to my personal preferences is how far up its own ass it is. Instead of simply telling Francisca’s story while indulging in the director’s morbid fantasies, The Eyes Of My Mother tries to elevate a serial killer’s origin story into high art through some of the most painfully highbrow execution I’ve seen in a while.

This movie thinks that it’s an artistic masterpiece, and therefore allowed to do whatever the fuck it wants despite looking like a pretentious art student in the process. But with myself being a pretentious graduate of an arts course, this would be me calling a kettle black.

Driving this point home is the fact that the entire movie is shot in black-and-white. I have nothing against artistic monochrome films, but its use needs to be justified. In this movie’s case, though, the filming technique only masquerades hollow bullshit as fancy, sophisticated filmmaking.

Eyes Up The Ass

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As is common in artistic acts of pretension, The Eyes Of My Mother’s otherwise simple story is bogged down by long, dragging shots that lovingly focus on the obvious horror elements like dead cows, dismembered human body parts, and Gothic countryside scenery. What could have been a straightforward horror movie is instead turned into an overlong montage of static imagery set to laughably creepy music.

One scene sums up everything wrong with this movie. After Francisca violently incapacitates a victim, she calmly comforts a crying baby by humming a lullaby while her hapless victim sputters blood and begs for mercy. Given to another director, this scene may have been unsettling but in The Eyes Of My Mother, not only does it use some of the most overused horror imagery imaginable that one would expect from a sub-par horror movie where spooky children in old-timey outfits dance to “ironically” placed music, but it practically BEGS its viewers to be scared.

News flash: That’s NOT how horror works.

In a good horror movie, subtlety is key and the most effective frights earn the desired reaction through hard work, build-up, and emotional investment. Great modern horror films like The Babadook (2014) or The Witch (2015) don’t shove their scares into audiences’ faces with accompanying cue cards that tell them when to either faint or wet themselves. Instead, they let nature take its course to scare people shitless. Meanwhile, The Eyes Of My Mother has such little regard for its audiences’ intellect that it guides them by the hand and makes them shit themselves on command.

The Adorable Anomaly

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Outside of the haunting yet gorgeous cinematography, there’s little to The Eyes Of My Mother because it’s nothing more than a cheap exploitation movie with a large budget and an artist’s bloated ego. Obviously, art is subjective, fear is relative and there’s nothing wrong with liking this particular movie, but The Eyes Of My Mother fails for me on a personal level.

This movie didn’t make me give the slightest fuck about what was happening because it was more interested in convincing viewers of its artistic value than in telling a disturbing but compelling story about a serial killer who thinks ’50s fashion still rocks. Nicolas Pesce’s directorial debut is just another example of pretentious arthouse bullshit despite being a visually stunning debut.

The only reason why I can’t hate The Eyes Of My Mother as much as the shitshow that was Antichrist (2009) is because of how fucking cute it is – it’s just fucking lovable to watch the movie desperately try to be scary. Unlike Antichrist which tried to be a two hour symbol that was ultimately as meaningful as a politician’s promise on election day, The Eyes Of My Mother treated its CreepyPasta video-level scares into something on par with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shinning (1984). The only thing is, CreepyPasta videos know they’re silly videos meant for a fun scare at two in the morning, nor do they claim to be anything more than a meme. If there’s one thing The Eyes Of My Mother needed, it was a hint of self-awareness. Maybe then, it would be more fun to watch instead of being the chore that it ultimately became.

Where Antichrist serves as the perfect way to see a director make a film with their entire head rammed up their asshole, The Eyes Of My Mother is a good way to see how another director can do the same, but with only half their head shoved up their asshole. It’s not the same shit-stained experience, but getting halfway there isn’t so bad a deal.

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