M.O.M. – MOTHERS OF MONSTERS (2020)
Directed by Tucia Lyman
Written by Tucia Lyman
Starring Melinda Page Hamilton, Bailey Edwards, Edward Asner, Janet Ulrich Brooks, Julian de la Celle
Find out more about this film here!
While I’m not in love with the name of this film, don’t let it deter you from checking M.O.M. – MOTHER OF MONSTERS out. The film is very much like THE BABADOOK in many ways, but more reality based and less supernatural. I found this found footage-esque film to be harrowing, tragic, heartbreaking, and agonizingly un-look-away-able.
Melinda Page Hamilton plays Abbey Bell, a distraught mother whose 16 year old son Jacob (Bailey Edwards) is exhibiting troubling behaviors that lead her to believe he is a budding psychopath. With a history of mental illness in her family and Abbey showing a lot of signs of mental illness herself that seems to be medicated, but still untreated, it seems it is only a matter of time before Jacob does something horrible. Abbey seems addicted to filming Jacob during his tantrums and tirades and goes so far as to set up security cameras throughout the house in hopes to fully understand his actions and gather evidence to hopefully pass on to other mothers suffering from the same predicament.
While I usually go through the motions of my found footage questionnaire on this type of film, I feel the subject matter and the themes are more interesting to talk about than whether or not it follows my rigid guidelines as to the authenticity of the format. Let’s just get it out of the way and say that, despite a song being played over the end credits, this film follows the format to a tee. There is no score added in to amplify emotion. There is a reason to keep filming. And though the film is edited together from multiple cameras, the story is so compelling that I was willing to forgive it.
Hamilton does a fantastic job as Abbey, delivering a soul-wrenching performance as someone pushes to her limits. Much like the mother in THE BABADOOK, you can’t help but feel for her plight as you bear witness to the problems she has living with Jacob. At the same time, Abbey is a very sick woman herself and that is pretty apparent from the beginning. She wears gloves all of the time. She is unkempt and unwashed (Jacob mentions this numerous times) and looks absolutely manic while giving her testimonials to the camera. She also is very resistant to therapy herself, cutting off interventions made with her by her mother (Janet Ulrich Brooks) and her therapist (Ed Asner). While she is beside herself because of the situation she is in with Jacob, her own mental issues amplify the problems exponentially.
Bailey Edwards does an equally great job here as Jacob. While he does have that snotty, know-it-all, and angsty attitude attached to most teenagers, he also seems to take a lot of joy in the pain he is causing his mother. As the footage his mother takes of him is revealed, his actions seem to confirm a lot of her fears. I will admit that the kid in THE BABADOOK was one of the reasons I don’t ever feel like revisiting that film, Jacob is much more bearable—most likely because he is older and less of a little monster and more of a manipulative villain. But like his mother Abbey, Edwards performance helps you empathize with Jacob—no small order given the horrors he puts his mom through.
The real question in M.O.M. – MOTHERS OF MONSTERS is “who do you believe?” Is Jacob a psychopath in the making or is he the victim of simply trying to deal with living with a deranged mother? Up until the last act, I was asking those questions and finding myself doubting my decisions and doubling back on them numerous times as the film played out. The final act, while I must admit it goes on for a bit too long, offers up gut-wrenching answers to these questions that are satisfying, yet so very, very sad.
This film is such an ordeal, but a satisfying one given the fact that both of the lead performers do such a job of realizing such a terrible situation. M.O.M. is true psychological horror in that it delves deep into the psyches of two very sick people and illustrates horror in a very real-world way. This is writer/director Tucia Lyman’s first feature film, as she has focused on producing mostly TV shows. It is an impressive leap from TV to film and Lyman handles the material in a sensitive, yet thorough and deft way. She delivers a film with no easy answers but manages to keep the tension going until the very end. With powerful performances, a gripping story, and a format that places you right there in the madness, M.O.M. – MOTHERS OF MONSTERS is real life terror done very, very well. This tragedy comes highly recommended.