One of the worst phone calls a parent could get is someone informing them that their child is dead. However, due in part with the skyrocketing cases of gun violence in recent years, an arguably more troubling phone call is the one informing them their child is responsible for somebody’s death. Tucia Lyman’s hard-hitting feature M.O.M (Mothers of Monsters) explores this dark, all too real route and prompts the question; what do you do when evil runs in the family?
M.O.M follows distraught single mother Abbey (Melinda Page Hamilton) who suspects her teenage son Jacob (Bailey Edwards) is a duplicitous psychopath who is plotting a school shooting. As Jacob’s behavior grows increasingly more erratic and he continuously slips through the cracks of the system, Abbey takes matters into her own hands by installing an elaborate spy camera system in their home. And what those cameras capture only confirms her worst fears. Things take a turn when the plan backfires and Jacob uses a dark family secret against her, launching both mother and son on a terrifying, and ultimately deadly, game of cat and mouse.
Of the film’s genesis and release, Lyman said, “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 behavior, 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.”
A smart, chilling, character driven story told in a very unique way, Lyman weaves an eerie tapestry that will make mincemeat out of an unsuspecting audience. What’s that I see? A new cult classic on our hands? Yes, I think that’s it.
M.O.M is an artistically ambiguous thriller that provides a look into a very specific human condition. While the subject matter at hand might be too close to home for some, one can’t help but admire the risk factor and the surprisingly sincere take on mental illness. And lets be honest; who doesn’t love a good creepy kid movie? If Bailey Edwards isn’t already on your radar then M.O.M will fix that.
Edwards’ is an odd delight as Jacob. With just the right amount of immature and unhinged, it’s apparent right away you aren’t supposed to like this kid. But it’s so damn difficult. What can I say? He’s got moxie. Which is what made it especially disturbing when Jacob revealed his true colors. They key is the eyes. Time and time again, when speaking with his friends or his grandmother throughout the film, Jacob’s big brown eyes emanate a certain warmth that comes close to a childish gleam. Then there’s this switch. All good psychopaths-in-training have one. There are these moments where his eyes just go dark. Not the kind of dark that indicates there’s something just under the surface, some monster just waiting to come out. Instead, there is a darkness. A complete, suffocating darkness that you could sink in, hinting at more of an emptiness within. A void. It never failed to send a shiver down my spine.
Opposite Edwards is Hamilton who was nothing short of a tour de force in this movie. Even as things gradually get more intense and the odds seem to be stacked against her, Hamilton’s emotions are so raw, so real and so natural it almost feels like you’re intruding just by watching.
All in all, M.O.M is everything I wanted and then some. It’s the kind of movie that will stick with you long after your first viewing (of many, hopefully). Similar to that of an intricate puzzle it will leave you guessing until the very end.
Wicked Rating: 8/10
Director(s): Tucia Lyman
Writer(s): Tucia Lyman
Starring: Melinda Page Hamilton, Bailey Edwards
Release date: March 13th, 2020
Studio/Production Company: Indie Rights
Run time: 98 Minutes