Over the years at ESplatter, I've received maybe hundreds of review copies of films, all of them being hyped by PR machines. Many of them are unwatchably bad -- unreviewable, in fact. Sometimes they're pretty good.
Then, every now and then, a film turns up with zero hype, zero marketing, zero PR, and just kind of arrives in my Netflix queue -- and blows me away. The just-released "Baby Blues" is such a film. This horror movie -- which received no marketing that I'm aware of before hitting disc -- is probably the scariest movie since Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects." It's an awesome horror movie. Presumably, its subject matter was too disturbing for the festival circuit. After all, it's about a mother trying to kill all of her kids. Had it played anywhere, we would have heard about it, because "Baby Blues" is a film you can never forget after seeing it.
After all, it is a movie about a Mom with post-partum psychosis who goes after her own kids. You've probably heard the occasional horrifying news item about a mom that goes homicidal after giving birth. Well, someone finally made a horror movie about it.
But before you condemn it, remember "The Shining" was about a parent trying to kill his kid. Only this time the parent is a mother, not a Dad. Maybe that's what made "Baby Blues" unreleasable. I suspect it will develop a big cult following now that it's finally available.
Set (and filmed) in the U.S. state of Georgia, co-directors Lars Jacobson and Amardeep Kaleka's debut film opens up with your standard horror movie disclaimer: "The following is based on actual events." (Actually, it isn't. But nevermind.) We're introduced to the star of the film -- the 'Mother' as her character is called, played perfectly by Colleen Porch of "Transformers" fame -- cradling her newborn.
The protagonist of the tale is the Mom's down-to-earth oldest son Jimmy, played by young actor Ridge Canipe, in another great performance. When his truckdriving Dad takes off on a job, he tells his son to be act like the man of the house. In another foreshadow of the events that are about to happen, a trailer trash neighbor lectures the boy on the nature of survival -- after showing him a rattlesnake killed by a chicken.
Mom starts having quasi-religious visions of stigmata on a baby shirt before having a complete psychotic breakdown. With her husband gone, the Mom starts going homicidal on her own kids, strangling the baby first, until the only child left alive is her oldest son -- whose knowledge of the family farm and skills with a slingshot give him a fighting chance to survive the night.
The film reminds us it's a not-to-be-taken-seriously horror film with a sometimes hammy performance by Porch as the mother. She delivers Freddy-like one liners mocking motherhood -- mumbling "Wash your hands, brush your teeth, dinner's downstairs" -- as she stalks her oldest son across the family farm, brandishing a meatcleaver.
In a sense, her behavior isn't much different from that of Jack Torrance in "The Shining" -- and one shot of the movie, photographed below her as she bellows at a locked door, clearly pays tribute to Kubrick's now classic horror movie, an obvious influence on this film. But there is something more terrifying (and certainly more unique) when it's a mother instead of a father that becomes the homicidal maniac on the loose.
What makes "Baby Blues" such an excellent horror movie is a combination of Jacobson and Kaleka's use of the American heartland and the Americanized ideal of motherhood as objects of fear plus the excellent performances by the cast. The film feels authentic, so it becomes easy to suspend disbelief and go along for a terrifying ride.
"Baby Blues" is one damn scary movie, way better than the theatrical fear films that have come out this year, and easily one of the best horror movies of 2008.