New this week On Demand and in select theaters from Vertical Films; help me out and pick it up on DVD/BluRay here on Amazon!
Directed by Brandon Christensen
Written by Brandon Christensen, Colin Minihan
Starring Christie Burke, Jesse Moss, Rebecca Olson, Jenn Griffin, Sheila McCarthy, Michael Ironside, Sean Rogerson, Dylan Playfair, Grace Christensen, Dianne Snape, Jayson Therrien
Find out more about this film @stillbornfilm on Facebook here
STILL/BORN has a great sense of mood and atmosphere and a pretty great cast, but some decisions along the way veer it away from being a truly great pregnancy horror film.
Mary (Christie Burke) and Jack (Jesse Moss) are new and proud parents of a bouncing baby boy. They are trying to focus on their living child and not commiserate on the death of his twin at birth, but as post-partum depression sets in, Mary begins having visions of her dead son and believes that he is trying to communicate with her. With those around her refusing the believe in Mary’s supernatural musings, it becomes apparent that an evil entity is trying to take Mary’s newborn baby to the other side as well.
For a good long time, STILL/BORN is a compelling dissection of post-partum depression amplified with a little paranormal horror. There is always a focus on the wonders of childbirth, but this time also highlights how one’s body can become a stranger during this time, the oddity of producing a life when one might not be ready, and the terror of this new responsibility weighing heavy on a parent’s life. This is great fodder for a horror story and many films have taken advantage of that very well. In its first forty-five minutes, there is some amazing mood and atmosphere set as Mary refuses to let her dead so go, often neglecting her living son in favor of the one who passed. This hit me on such a powerful level and there are some scenes of true terror as Mary begins seeing visions of her dead son in his empty crib. This is the strongest part of the film, as Mary descends into the madness that succumbs her for the rest of the movie.
The problem is with the last half of the film as it becomes evident that Mary is not being haunted by her dead son, but instead ***SPOILER*** she is being haunted by an otherworldly entity who is after her living son. This switch of gears halfway through really disrupts the flow of the film and changes the tone completely from a creepy horror about a dead child wanting to communicate with its mother to a film not unlike an INSIDIOUS yarn with a ghost of the week looking creepy and having a unique, yet predictable M.O. ***END SPOILER*** This undercuts the entire first hour, which to me, followed a much more interesting path. Now, I know this ventures into the realm of me getting all assed up because the plot didn’t go the way I expected and wanted, but in my opinion, a dead child haunting his mother and living brother sounds infinitely more exciting than another creepy moving INSIDIOUS ghost. That’s my opinion, I understand, but I think it also would have made for a better film overall.
Burke’s descent into madness is handled extremely well and she gives her all in this physically and seemingly mentally exhausting performance. While the final moments of her mania are extreme, the escalation to this point is handled in a believable manner given the circumstances. Moss gives a believable and likable performance of a husband who is trying his best to handle the increasingly bizarre behavior of his wife. That’s why I’m torn with STILL/BORN. The performances from Burke and Moss are great (though Michael Ironside plays one of the most passive and inept therapists I have ever seen) and I love the careful and painful descent into madness. I also think half the film is spot on with great scares. But once the true monster shows itself, I felt let down.