The horror/thriller genre is the one genre of film were it pays to be strange, unexplainable and disgusting. It makes little to no sense to create in the genre if you aren't willing to push certain thresholds.


Director Nicolas Pesce apparently understood that when he began developing his film "The Eyes Of My Mother" in Cooperstown New York. The scenes are stark, the story is odd but strangely cohesive, and the characters are pragmatic but revolting at the same time. They exist simply because the narrative says they exist and you don't need to know any other reason.


The story revolves around a young lady named Francisca (portrayed as a child by Olivia Bond and as an adult by Kika Magalaes) who lives on a rural farmhouse somewhere in the United States with her mother (Diana Agostini) and father (Paul Nazak). Her mother is a former surgeon from Portugal and longs for the days when she practiced in her home country, learning the trade using livestock. The film opens with her teaching her young daughter about the construction of the eye - by dissecting a cows eye.

The lesson is interrupted by a strange visitor (Will Brill) who demands to use the restroom before commencing to brutally kill the mother. The father comes home and retaliates by disabling the stranger. All while little Francisca watches. You know she's going to be one screwed up little girl.


Father and Francisca decide to keep the stranger in the barn as a form of pet, she disables him so that he can't see nor scream, but he seems content since he was a weirdo anyway.


That is when the film steps away to the surreal as we are never clear what the relationship between the father and Francisca is all the way till it is time for him to also expire. Life and death are meaningless to Francisca because it was instilled in her that death was a matter of fact event. That notion becomes acceptable to the moviewatching audience, even as the story descends even further down the valley of barbarians.


By the time Francisca commits her final act, you will come to expect her behavior and it all seems quite logical because the movie say's it is logical. All using simple chains, a few knives, a saw and sutures! No screaming. No suggestive music. No splattering blood, especially sense it was shot in black and white. You will never become vested in any of the characters, yet you oddly compelled to follow along the journey.


There are moments when you feel you are watching George Romero's original "Night of the Living Dead", Hitchcock's "Psycho", and even the Coen brothers "Barton Fink".


"The Eyes of My Mother" is a nice exercise in disgust and human sacrifice without the in-your-face effects of the typical slaughterfest.   -- GEOFF BURTON