Best Horror Movies of the Decade: The Eyes of My Mother
All this month, we are counting down the 31 best horror movies of the decade and doing a closer look at why each one earned a spot on our list!
25. The Eyes of My Mother (dir. Nicolas Pesce, 2016)
Breathing can be scary. In most scary movies, breathing gets goosed in the sound mix to signify that the camera represents the killer's perspective, and we buy into the illusion that we're under Michael Myers' mask, or it helps us identify with the prey, and the only thing we can hear is Clarice Starling's breath because that's all she can hear in the dark of Buffalo Bill's house. It's rarely weaponized the way Nicolas Pesce used it in his 2016 debut film The Eyes of My Mother: as percussion.
The Eyes of My Mother is a movie where some rough shit happens to eyeballs, but the thing that sticks with you, unfortunately, is the sound a person makes when his vocal chords are removed and he tries to make noise. I'm not damning this movie with faint praise when I say one of its contributions to the horror genre is "making me queasy listening to harsh breathing."
Eyes is about a woman dealing with trauma and loneliness for a couple decades, starting when her mother is killed in a home invasion. It's sparse, but not slow, always jumping a year or two into the future after a major event unfolds, and I think you'd be best going in blind (har har) but if you'd like to get some sense of its hook, know that the home invader lives chained up, eyeless and with no way to speak, in a barn for maybe fifteen years. "Something isn't right behind the closed doors of seemingly normal houses" is such a cliched place for a horror film to go, and Pesce avoids it by messing you up quickly and then continuing to mess you up at regular intervals; "something isn't right behind the closed doors of a house where you've already seen that something is very wrong."
It's black and white, the soundtrack is mostly low drones, and most of the movie takes place on a rural farm. It's such an oppressive atmosphere that I get why Pesce's follow-up was a brightly-colored black comedy set in a metropolis. It's like his first movie was the opening of Wizard of Oz and his second one was the scenes that actually take place in Oz. Eyes doesn't even crack 80 minutes and when it's over you think "good, enough, get me somewhere I'm pretty sure nobody's going to be mutilated."