The Movie Waffler Glasgow Film Festival 2024 Review - MOM | The Movie Waffler

Glasgow Film Festival 2024 Review - MOM

A mother is menaced by forces that threaten the safety of her newborn son.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Adam O'Brien

Starring: Emily Hampshire, François Arnaud, Christian Convery, Mariah Inger, Erika Rosenbaum

Director Adam O'Brien's feature debut Mom is another horror movie about a mother fearing that something is out to get her newborn child. In this case it's the mother herself, or at least the forces that may be manipulating her.

Meredith (Emily Hampshire) and Jared (Francois Arnaud) arrive home from the hospital with their new baby boy Alex. Jared is beaming at the idea of being a father, but Meredith isn't so keen on being a mother. When Jared returns to work, leaving Meredith to look after Alex all day, she slumps into an extreme form of postpartum depression, leaving the kid unattended in dirty nappies. She also becomes plagued by visions of an older, roughly five-year-old version of Alex (Christian Convery), a woman whose face is covered with straggly black hair, and centipedes crawling out of cracks in the wall.

This drives a wedge between Meredith and Jared, who begin attending therapy sessions together. The therapist (Mariah Inger) gives some trite instructions like counting to 10 when stressed, but they prove useless in helping Meredith, whose behaviour becomes increasingly disturbing.

While best known for comic roles and her part on Canadian sitcom Schitt's Creek, Hampshire has dabbled in the horror genre before. Mom is by far her darkest role yet however, and she takes to it with ease. As the unnerved and always on edge Meredith, Hampshire is both sympathetic and scary. We feel sorry for what she's going through, but we also fear for what she might be pushed to do to her child.

The trouble with Mom is that it shares the same issue as Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining, that of a protagonist who seems demented from the off rather than gradually losing it over teh course of the film. Mom doesn't ease us in to Meredith's troubles, rather they begin immediately in a fashion that's somewhat jolting. We're left to wonder if Meredith was always this troubled or if her personality changed once she became a mother.

The movie also suffers from an incident at the end of the first act that disregards Hitchcock's advice that a movie should never detonate its metaphorical bomb. Everything we had been invested in up to that point is suddenly erased from the narrative, making it difficult to rewire ourselves to follow a new plot line. As the worst thing that could have happened has indeed already occurred, the remaining stakes feel considerably lower.

Mom struggles to offer anything new to the horror genre. It's too reliant on clichés borrowed from the sort of Asian horror movies that were popular at the turn of the century. Dripping water and damp? Check. Female ghost with long black hair? Check. Asshole husband with little empathy for his troubled spouse? Check.

Fans of Hampshire will enjoy seeing the comic star get to exercise her more dramatic side, but there's little else to recommend Mom. Given how closely it replicates the sort of trauma many women go through with real life postpartum depression, it also can't help but come off as a little exploitative and mean-spirited. But above all else, it's just not very scary. Unlike a newborn child, Mom won’t keep you up at night.

Mom received its world premiere at Glasgow FrightFest on 9 March.