A scene from “Eyes of my Mother.” (Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing)

A scene from “Eyes of my Mother.” (Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing)

‘Eyes of My Mother’ will creep you out

There’s a certain kind of arthouse horror picture that uses subtle craft, a discreet sense of menace and elliptical storytelling to create its frights. It might even be in black-and-white.

All of those elements are in play in “The Eyes of My Mother.”

Also, this movie is seriously effed up.

“Eyes” is the creation of filmmaker Nicolas Pesce, a New Yorker working at the indie-budget level. He’s got a controlled, classical eye for composition, and a pretty sick mind.

The film is set way, way out in the countryside. A man (Paul Nazak) lives in a farmhouse with his vaguely witchy wife (Diana Agostini) and their daughter. Mostly they speak Portuguese around the place.

Something horrible happens when a stranger comes by the house one day. Revenge will be taken, but it proves very nearly as horrifying as the original crime.

I’m trying not to go into detail, but what happens is that a few years later, the adult daughter, Francisca (Kika Magalhaes), executes a few variations on what her parents taught her. These involve the stranger who changed her life, and a couple of unfortunate bystanders who happen to wander into Francisca’s path.

On the one hand, Pesce creates some wickedly calm examples of daily-life horror, from the way the father seems to watch only “Bonanza” reruns on TV to the eccentric body language of mother and daughter. Mom also likes to dismember cows and analyze the eyes, so there’s that.

One the other hand, Pesce doesn’t mind building to a handful of absolutely soul-shriveling shock moments. These work not so much because of the amount of gore involved, but because of the disturbing ideas behind them.

The actors are in tune with this feeling of otherworldliness, and the black-and-white provides the right amount of distanced chill. It ties together its curious opening shot with its ending in an underplayed but satisfying way.

There’s a fine line between horror and sadism, and I’m not sure Pesce always sticks to it. But the film’s feeling for what isolation can do to people — exaggerated as it is here — is what keeps it grounded. And seriously effed up.

“The Eyes of My Mother” (3 stars)

An arthouse horror picture that is subtle in the ways you might expect from that description, but is also seriously effed up. The horror takes place over a number of years at an isolated farmhouse, where a young woman (Kika Magalhaes) tends to her loneliness in uniquely creepy ways.

Rating: R, for violence, nudity, subject matter

Showing: Northwest Film Forum

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