"The Eyes of My Mother" has stormed the indie horror scene this year with its gruesome tale of a young woman traumatized by childhood tragedies. Directed by Nicolas Pesce, the movie was picked up by Magnolia Pictures pretty early on and is now premiering across the United States and some Canadian cities. "The Eyes of My Mother" is currently playing in Tempe, AZ, Oakland and Santa Ana, CA, Gainesville, FL, Columbus, OH, and New York, at the IFC Center 5. In Canada, viewers can watch the movie in Ottawa and Toronto. Thirteen more locations are set to open through December and January.

"When we first shot the movie, I didn’t really know it was going to be like this," actress Kika Magalhães acknowledged at the premiere of the movie in Los Angeles, during the AFI Fest.

"The script was very different, he [Nicolas Pesce] changed a lot of things. I was very surprised when I first watched it."

A tale of murder

"The Eyes of My Mother" is set in the countryside, in a secluded farmhouse led by a family of Portuguese immigrants. Young Francisca learns from her mother, who used to be a surgeon in native Portugal, the secrets to anatomy and death. She learns how to remove the eyes of dead cows unfazed by the gruesomeness of the act.

But the visit of a stranger changes everything for the little girl, who witnesses a brutal murder without being able to do anything. Her reaction to the tragedy is what makes "The Eyes of My Mother" so special: in theory, the evolution of a traumatized little girl into a psychotic yet naive young woman is difficult to convey.

But Kika Magalhães does just that in a very believable and sickening way.

The movie was shot in upstate New York for 18 days, while Kika herself was going through some emotional turmoil. Nicolas Pesce had written the script thinking precisely of her, a Portuguese native who moved to the United States five years ago to become an actress.

"When I first moved here, I didn’t even know where I was going to sleep that night. This movie is so special to me because it’s the proof that dreams come true," Kika said.

She was joined on set by Will Brill (whose performance is stellar), Paul Nazak, Flora Diaz, Clara Wong and Diana Agostini (the mother).

Why 'The Eyes of My Mother' is in black and white

It's not very often that a new movie comes out entirely in black and white; Pesce chose to do so as a tribute to his classic horror favorites, such as Hitchcock. As a result, the viewer is not horrified by the vivid gore of a bloody flick, but by the slow cooking of a disturbed character that still prays every night while giving in to her deepest, dark wishes.

Kika collaborated with Nick to bring her Portuguese heritage into the movie. Some of it was lost in the black and whiteness of it. "There’s a scene when I’m eating a very specific dish, 'arroz de cabidela'. It’s a dish with chicken and the blood of the chicken, but in this case, Francisca cooked it with the blood of her victims," she explains.

However, this little easter egg gets lost because there is no way of noticing the dish she's eating.

She also got fado music, a national treasure, to be featured in the movie – and it lends a morbid beauty to it. "Portuguese people have this reputation of being melancholic and there’s this word, 'saudade', with no translation. Fado is always about that." 'Saudade' is the feeling of missing someone or something. Amália Rodrigues' song "Naufrágio" is heard in one of the most disturbing scenes of the movie.

"The Eyes of My Mother" has been garnering rave reviews from critics since its debut at Sundance, and is certainly a must-watch for horror movies buffs. It will open in Salem, MA, Winston-Salem, NC, Boulder, CA, Santa Fe, NM, Tacoma, WA, La Vista, NE, Brooklyn, NY, Wichita, KS, Wilmington, DE, Normal, IL, and Keene, NH in the coming weeks.

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