I’m always a bit hesitant whenever I get offered an online screening of a movie: what if the movie really sucks and I have to give it a less-than-charming review (like it happened with Inside, 2017 and Dead Dicks, 2019)? What if I ruin the relationship with PR people from a certain production company and I can’t get any more advanced screenings from them? As my track record demonstrates, my takes never get skewed by that, but I can’t deny these thoughts often cross my mind in such instances.
Luckily, there are other examples of online screeners that even exceeded my expectations, such as Is That You?, which even ended up in my top 10 horror movies of 2019. With M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters I really didn’t know what to expect: the concept behind it is something I always intrigued by, but not knowing anything about the director (Tucia Lyman) I kept my defences up. M.O.M., which is “A Mother’s Worst Nightmare” according to the tagline, will have its theatrical world premiere and digital HD rollout on March 13th.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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M.O.M. – plot and real-life horror
Produced and distributed by Indie Rights, M.O.M. centres around a distraught mother (Melinda Page Hamilton) who suspects her teenage son Jacob (Bailey Edwards) is plotting a school shooting. As his behaviour becomes increasingly alarming, Abbey is forced to take matters into her own hands: after installing an elaborate spy camera system in their home, the mother captures a series of disturbing videos that confirm her worst fears. Torn between a mother’s unconditional love and an acute intuition, Abbey caters her videos to all the other “mothers of monsters” online. Things don’t go as smoothly as Abbey was hoping for, though, which results in a series of escalating confrontations between mother and son.
The best way to describe M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters is just to borrow the director’s statements on the film:
“I’ve always been intrigued by real-life horror films that use the dysfunctions of society as a vessel to explore the truth. M.O.M. is a work of narrative fiction, but much of the behaviour, scenarios, and dialogue were borrowed from the journals and publications of real-life school shooters and their parents. It is a very confronting film, much like the subject matter itself, and I hope it will contribute to the national debate surrounding mental health stigma and gun violence in America.”
Narrative and filmmaking
What could easily turn into propaganda is, instead, handled with class and care by this film. In a very restrained environment, with only two real characters to carry the whole movie (the mom and Jacob), M.O.M. manages to drag the viewer into their lives: their dynamic, their relationship is both realistic and disturbing to watch on a psychological level, which makes this film really effective and scary – not in a traditional way, though. Through very little exposition we understand the gist of the story, but what is really communicated throughout M.O.M. is the characters’ feelings and emotions, which feel very grounded and genuine. Whatever your background is, you can identify with mother and son, and even sympathise with them… which is particularly impressing considering they’re very flawed and Jacob is, well, unlikeable to say the least.
Although I’m not the biggest fan of mockumentary-type movies, which often use the technique as a cheap way to scare or hide budget restraints, this filmmaking decision works perfectly for M.O.M. Aside from that, the director put so much care into making everything feel authentic: every camera works in a different way and the quality of the image stays consistent throughout the entire runtime. When the lenses get damaged and the glass gets cracked, it stays like that for the whole film, showing how much attention to detail was put into filming M.O.M. The reliance on stationary cameras, for the most part, helps avoiding the nauseating shaky cam feeling that ruins so many subpar found-footage and 1st-person-perspective flicks.
Meticulous presentation of disturbing content
Aside from narrative structure and filmmaking at play, M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters stands out due to the subtlety behind every action and reaction. Aside from a couple of minor instances, the movie never insists on anything, instead it lets the viewer understand the characters through their behaviour, their dialogue and their line delivery. In fact, M.O.M. benefits from a very meticulous script (also written by Tucia Lyman… what a talent!) that’s brought to life by the amazing, very committed performances. Melinda Page Hamilton as Abbey gives her all, bringing to life a multifaceted, flawed but empathetic character. Bailey Edwards, in his debut as Jacob, is truly hateable and annoying… which perfectly fits the character in a riveting way.
Through all of these elements, M.O.M. manages to be gripping and intense from beginning to end, featuring so many moments that are disturbing on a psychological and emotional level. All the sounds come from within the movie, including the music Jacob listens to, in such a way that both enhances the realism and doesn’t take away from filmmaking and performances.
Conclusions – why you need to watch M.O.M.
At the beginning of this article I expressed my scepticism and concerns on this film. At the end of it, I can fairly say M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters is a great – and important – movie, as well as one of the very best mockumentary-style pictures I’ve seen in a long time. As the film itself states during the end credits – which are incredibly original and purposeful – you need to watch this story about family violence and abuse because it can be really eye-opening. Not just for American audiences, but for everyone who experienced some degree of what’s depicted in M.O.M.
M.O.M. has very few inconsistencies: sometimes one of the cameras switches back to either Jacob or Abbey and, despite the limited time span, they would be in a different position or with a different background. One of the minor characters – Dr Howard Arden, played by Edward Asner – serves no purpose in the film other than teasing a mystery in Abbey’s life and dump some exposition. Between second and third act, there’s a monologue by Abbey that goes on for too long and feels more like filler than anything else. Other than that, I don’t have any complaints with M.O.M.: I adored this film and I can’t recommend it enough.
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