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M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Indie Rights Movies

Mom Mothers Of Monsters Poster Large

Written and directed by Tucia Lyman
2020, 98 minutes, Not Rated
Released on March 13th, 2020

Starring:
Bailey Edwards as Jacob Bell
Melinda Paige Hamilton as Abbey Bell
Janet Ulrich Brooks as Nana Millie
Edward Asner as Dr. Howard Arden

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Review:

There are a myriad of styles to do horror in, but the one that has the most relevance and staying power is the horror that looks at the day and age we live in. When you tell a tale in this world – the one where bad shit happens for no viable reason and the monsters are people like you and I – you’re operating from a position of natural power where the suspension of disbelief required to believe in the Boogeyman turns into not wanting to believe what’s so frighteningly feasible. That’s effective horror.

M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters tells the story of Abbey Bell (Melinda Paige Hamilton; God Bless America) and her sixteen-year-old son, Jacob (Bailey Edwards; Bright). Abbey is a single Mom who’s scared to death that her baby boy is a budding psychopath. He seems to have all the classic traits, and Abbey should know – her story has a very violent skeleton in the closet that seems to be reanimating itself in her son. Are her fears justified? Is Jacob a tragic news story waiting to happen? Or is she the one with the tenuous grip on sanity?

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M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters is a two-character story cut cleanly into two acts, and this plays well despite the unconventional structure and minimalist feel (Hollywood legend Edward Asner does provide a little exposition in a bit part). Told through a series of home surveillance cameras, cell phone footage, and webcams, it’s a movie that isn’t looking to give you a jump scare but instead an unbroken look at a life lived from a skewed perspective. It’s clear from the beginning that both Abbey and Jacob have problems, to say the least. There are no heroes and villains here.

That’s another anchor to reality that bolsters the unease of M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters. We live in a world where school shootings are a regular thing and broken homes full of mental illness and strife has become the norm. Writer/director Tucia Lyman (Ghosts of Shepherdstown) wants to give you a fictional tale that doesn’t feel at all fictional, and even when M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters gets a little outlandish (which it certainly does in the final thirty minutes), you still believe what you’re seeing.

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There are more layers to the madness here than a triple-decker German chocolate cake. There’s Jacob. There’s Abbey. There’s Abbey’s family history and dark secret. There’s the mother-son dynamic that only exists in the teenage years. There’s the unique dynamic of a mother and son where mental problems are rife, and problems can arise at a moment’s notice. It’s a lot to take in, and where you focus your attention ultimately decides whether the film works for you. I was a medicated teen with dangerous anger problems and my mother (who raised me solo) was a manic-depressive bipolar, so to say I speak the language of M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters would be a bit of an understatement.

The first fifty-five minutes of the film are a more intimate and less theatrical take on the classic Lionel Shriver novel (and Lynne Ramsay screenplay), We Need to Talk About Kevin. It’s the story of a mother trying to understand the darkness in her son. Abbey struggles with her love for Jacob and her exhaustion at his nastiness and vicious turn of temper. It’s something that really happens, after all; Melinda Paige Hamilton and Bailey Edwards work an uncomfortable magic together. Just looking at her haggard stare and feverish angst will give you a minor panic attack. And Bailey Edwards’ performance as Jacob Bell? Christ, he’s chilling. That stare goes on for days with a blankness that’s hard to look at for too long.

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The final forty minutes are a housebound version of Saw. If that sounds like a jarring tonal change and presentational leap to you, well…it is. It’s easier to accept than you would think (thanks to those two amazing performances), but calling it noticeable is a bit like saying the contents of Jacob’s closet are a tad creepy (you’ll see). The psychology at work in that second act is sublime as each works the other in a series of escalating moments of sheer “what the fuck did I just watch?!” that end in horrific fashion.

About that ending: It’s a twist of the age-old nature versus nurture debate that’s almost meanspirited. It also makes a great cautionary tale about the dangers of both a lack of sensitivity to mental issues and how careful you should be in what your reaction to that is. M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters is an often over-the-top story that could still be utterly true.

So often, there is no happy ending. It’s ugly but it’s true.

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Grades:

Movie: 4.5 Star Rating Cover
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About The Author
Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Writer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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