Watch This offers movie recommendations inspired by new releases, premieres, current events, or occasionally just our own inscrutable whims. This week: Antonio Campos and Sean Durkin both have new movies coming out, so we’re looking back on other projects released by their production company, Borderline Films.
The Eyes Of My Mother (2016)
Along with the development of art and language, necrophobia—the fear of death and dead bodies—was one of the first traits that emerged in homo sapiens as we began to develop into a slightly more civilized version of our primordial selves. But although we’ve been burying our dead for more than 100,000 years, it’s still possible to short-circuit the wiring that makes most human beings instinctually recoil at the sight or smell of a corpse. Real-life examples of this are rare, but it does happen from time to time. In fiction, meanwhile, the topic has generally been the purview of provocateurs whose sole mission is to shock their audience. Into this goopy, nauseating milieu, The Eyes Of My Mother tosses three surprising traits: elegance, restraint, and pathos.
Although the worlds of extreme horror and indie drama are usually as separate as far-flung islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Borderline Films was uniquely suited to shepherd Nicolas Pesce’s debut feature from concept to production. Co-founder Antonio Campas had already made an arguably more disturbing movie in the form of 2012’s Simon Killer, for one. And although it may not be obvious from the film’s logline—a lonely little girl grows up to be a sick and twisted woman after witnessing the murder of her mother—there’s a river of sadness flowing through the character of Francisca (Kika Magalhaes) that is of a piece with Borderline’s signature emotional intensity. In a 2016 interview with The A.V. Club, Pesce noted the film’s visceral inspiration, saying he started writing the script after thinking about how he would feel if his parents died. “No matter how terrifying or violent or gruesome it gets, this is a story about a girl that wishes she could just be with her mother again,” he said.
The film’s austere black-and-white cinematography also sets it apart. In contrast with the raw, heartrending emotion that drives Francisca to mutilation and murder, The Eyes Of My Mother is shot in formally composed widescreen, frequently putting a window between the viewer and the action to further distance us from the horrifying events unfolding on screen. And like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the film is also less graphic than its reputation would suggest, letting sound effects and the viewer’s own imagination fill in the gruesome gaps. That’s not to say that it’s all implication and deep, moody shadows, however—the film may look like Psycho, but Francisca is more confident and precise with her scalpel than Norman Bates was with his kitchen knife. Her cuts aren’t meant to kill, but to incapacitate her victims so they can never leave her again. And she’s good at it. Her mother taught her well.
Availability: The Eyes Of My Mother is available for digital rental or purchase from Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube, Microsoft, Fandango, Redbox, and VUDU.