Abbey Bell is extremely worried about her teenage son, Jacob. Worried that Jacob, an intelligent boy with good grades and is a social magnet, is plotting a mass shooting at his school. After countless preemptive attempts to warn authorities and medical professionals of her suspicions of his psychopathic tendencies, Abbey begins recording a diary and setting up spy cameras inside the family home hoping to catch Jacob’s unpredictable and dangerous suggestions and threats on tape. The videos will also serve as blog fodder for other desperate mothers experiencing similar disturbing behavioral issues with their children. As the single mother and her son continue their at home war of bickering words and distraught suspicions, the maternal bond once shared between mother and son begins to deteriorate and evolve into unsurmountable distrust between each other; a distrust that has been simmering ever since Jacob was a toddler stemmed by Abbey’s dark family secret sheathed for many years until Jacob weaponizes it for his utmost survival against his concerned mother.
Before the coronavirus pandemic transformed powerful sovereign nations into panic-induced introverts wetting their pants at the first spray of a sneeze hitting their skin, news medias around the globe delectably ate up headlines of mass shootings as there would seem, at least for a good stretch, to be a sad and unfortunate mass shooting every single day. Tucia Lyman’s “M.O.M. Mother of Monsters” derives from that fearful climate while also purposing another sub-topical issue of a parent’s position in that circumstance. Lyman tackles one fictional woman’s tale of internal turmoil as her directorial debut and the sophomore script of a feature film not in a documentary format, pivoting away from the “Untold Stories of the ER” and “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” junk food that consumes about 2/3’s of television comatose Americans. The “found footage” 2020 released psychological thriller is produced by Elain White and Austin Porter whom both have collaborated with Lyman in the past.
While not as sexily depicted and as authoritative as Emilia Clarke is depicted to be the Mother of Dragons in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” New York City born Melinda Page Hamilton can surely sell a mother of a monster as Abbey Bell, vending sharply laid out doubts and uncertainties with a mountain of convincing circumstantial evidence against her only child. The “Not Forgotten” actress quietly folds into herself as the submissively passive Abbey on a histrionics mission to out her son as a danger to society. Bailey Edwards commands a subversive and rebellious teenage Jacob Bell that can use his millennial powers to steamroll over his mother’s lack-of-assertive powers. This film will be Bailey’s first substantial co-staring venture, along with minor performances in “My Dead Boyfriend” starring Heather Graham and Netflix’s “Bright” with Will Smith, and who will subtly introduce Jacob as some white nationalist, gun enthusiasts who has a gas mask with a swastika insignia, first person shooter gear and video games, and scenes of him walking in front of gun shops. While Hamilton and Edwards dominate the majority of screen time, the short cast list rounds out with Janet Ulrich Brooks, Julian de la Celle, and a special appearance from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s” Ed Asner as a behavioral doctor Skyping perspective therapy with Abbey. Does anyone believe a 91-year-old knows how to use a video chat? It’s a bit of a stretch….
“M.O.M. Mother of Monsters” throws caution to the wind embarking on a viewpoint of how far a mother will go to expose her child’s dissident and, potentially, deadly behavior. Lyman also digs deeper into the psyche of the mother and the child, sticking them with a ticking time bomb that is the heredity factor. Mental illness is a huge underlined theme that Lyman slips into the fold as signs of one person’s erratic behavior can be stemmed from the secrets of little known relatives and their seemingly destined out of control path can no way be influenced externally without reserving counseling, extenuating the age-old debate of nurture versus nature. Lyman’s storytelling smartly preserves an obscured aspect, cloaked by selective denial and tremendous paranoia, that becomes a catalyzing game changer of disturbing consequences. The narrative isn’t at all flawless with weak spots in the character structure that pigeonhole the roles to be stuck inside this cat and mouse cycling mindset between Abbey and Jacob. For instance, Abbey’s an obsessive, 24-hour recording zealot whose documenting never reveals anything else happening in Abbeys life, like work, friends, etc., whereas Jacob’s intermixed recordings with a female friend outside the contentious home reveal a life beyond his skirmish with this mother and his videogame shut-in habitat, but these recordings stick out awkwardly as much of the story’s is from Abbey’s perspective so how did Jacob’s casual conversation videography become a part of Abbey’s cautionary tale for other distraught mothers? Whether intentional or not to exhibit the imbalanced social complexities between Jacob and Abbey’s personal lives or lack thereof, Jacob’s exterior scenes course out of bounds, penalizing portions of the plot.
Become submersed in dark thoughts and monomania with Tucia Lyman’s “M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters” hitting the digital HD VOD platforms soon after premiering at the Los Angeles Arena Cinelounge this past Friday the 13th through Indie Rights distribution. Since this is a theatrical and VOD title, there is no home video release to provide technical specs and assessments; this also includes no special features. “M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters” hammers down the sociopolitical hot topics of mental illness, gun violence, and presumptive fear teeming in America with a spitting image and climate aware psychological thriller bristled with family dysfunction.
Earth has become an uninhabitable wasteland. The human race have resettled and colonized on the red planet of Mars. Years have past and the younger generation has never had the experience of living on Earth. Every year, a select few, those who pass multitudes of tests and reach the age of 30 years, will join the Revive Program and will travel through space on a seven day journey to Earth in order to aid in the planet’s rehabilitation of their once ancestry home. The journey between Mars and Earth is this story, a story of psychological perplexity between three travelers who get to go home for the first time.
“Earthrise” is the creation of writer-director-producer Glenn Payne, tackling the production limits of a space film in an independent market. Payne and his production team effectively generate the illusion of being a single speck in a vast universe without getting overly galactic (i.e. “Moon”) and widely interstellar (i.e. “Interstellar”). Yes, “Earthrise” embodies a minuscule budget that’s certainly evident, but the ambitiousness to recreate the innards of a spaceship without being too blatantly cheap gives creativity credit to the crew. The brief transitional moments outside the ship are about as good as money can afford, but still don’t quite cut the mustard with some big Hollywood blockbusters or even larger independent films.
Along with much of the crew, Payne’s experience mainly stems from a variety of short films with “Earthrise” being his latest full length feature out of a total of four. The three actors who portray the focus-centered characters also mostly come from a short film background. Meaghin Burke (“Trick or Treat” short), Casey Dillard (“Blackout” short), and Meaghin’s husband, Greg Earnest (also from “Trick or Treat”), portray the three protagonist Dawn, Vivian, and Marshall, voyaging to Earth. Within a non-linear story, their tensions cut through finely as an unexplained terror has overtaken, not only their flight to Earth, but their minds that visualize apparitions of people and creatures that shouldn’t be there. Giant spiders, man-eating alligators, alarming amounts of blood – just some of the psychological tensions testing the characters. Is it a form of space dementia? Or the inability to grasp leaving your home, your family, to live on another planet and not having the ability to contact anyone from home for a year, per the Revive Program’s policy? Or is it something else? “Earthrise” domes the answer fairly well until the end.
The sequence of events surround a near catastrophe involving a sudden meteor collision. One side of the collision tells the story prior to their insanely dangerous visions, building upon their backgrounds and delivering their soon obtained new found hope, while the other side explores their descent into madness and, eventually, the two stories meet in the middle with the major calamity. Contrasting the two sides defines, in a good light, director Glenn Payne’s editing style while still able to clearly convey the crews plight. Mise-en-scene clues were used to differentiate the catalyst, such as Marshall’s head wound or Vivian’s limp, but these details were minor enough to not pose an extravagance in order to make clear the outer edges of the story.
The 2014 sci-fi thriller is presented by Indie Rights Movies and MVD in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The details are richly sharp, drenched in a metal tone to create a ship’s inner hull racing through space atmosphere. The dual channel Dolby Digital mix is clear and balanced and purposefully isolating to get inside the loneliness of the great big infinite. Accompanying the 100 minute runtime, a couple extras include the film’s trailer and a commentary. Sci-fi on a budget, “Earthrise” is enjoyably subtle, sleekly structured, and soaked with heart and soul. Many will not be attracted to “Earthrise” and it’s slow-to-build momentum, leaving only true film aficionados and appreciators to find Payne’s work entertaining.
After serving an eviction notice to a strange old woman, with a grisly rumor in her past, for her realtor mogul father, Rose becomes drugged and bound against her will by the old woman who injects Rose with something. When Rose awakes, she finds her self caught in a repetitive cycle of murder, betrayal, and mystery brought upon by a spell conjured upon Rose by the old enchantress woman. The key to breaking the spell is the enchantress’s family home and it’s up to Rose to whether destroying the home or not will save her father who also falls victim to the old woman’s bewitching power.
“Rows” is the fantasy-horror brainchild of writer-director David Warfield and stars “Feast” actress Hannah Schick along side “House with 100 Eyes’s” Lauren Lakis, Kenneth Hughes, Joe Basile, and Nancy Murray as the enchantress or the witch, which I like to title the character. The overall small casts’ performance achieves the toned-down, nearly expressionless portrayal of characters stuck in the confines of a hex; the “something-doesn’t-feel-right” notion is hyped up without the idea constantly up in your face and is more downplayed to let the viewer interpret Rose’s beyond twisted “Alice in Wonderland” experience. Instead of a world full of giant smoking caterpillars and tea drinking mad hatters, Warfield writes about the relatively unknown horrors of corn fields, an endless maze with rows and rows of high stalks that traps Rose and Greta.
But the corn rows go to the back burner when the nature of the house comes to the forefront. The house’s claim to be the smoking gun to all of Rose’s obstacles is undervalued by the poor written construction of the southern belle style home in the script. The house doesn’t loom, isn’t very menacing, and just can’t seem to ever get on it’s feet to become a character wroth being frightened over. Warfield should have stuck with the corn rows which creates a surface murkiness, goes beyond our heroine’s ability to see or hear, shreds any hope for escape, and looks more ominous during the night; the house was always kept in the daytime. However, the old witch’s power stems from the house and for whatever reason, aside from the extended family history under their thumb, there is this unsatisfied, unknown conclusion for the viewer and the finale is up for personal interpretation.
In making the ending open, Warfield’s “Rows” eases onto the border of experimental. Act one and two weren’t exactly straight forward either, but the understanding was clear and present enough. Once the transition, or the epiphany if you will, into the third act begins, a struggle to grasp Rose’s direction and, in the end, destination becomes more difficult. I can only go on my own interpretation of Rose’s journey and, much like that of the fantasy-ridden “Labyrinth” starring David Bowie, I felt like actress Hannah Schick was the Jennifer Connelly character in the sense that Rose has to grow up, leave the comforts of home, and be responsible and this whole event with the enchantress and the spell is an internal mental battle that ultimately is decided by a choice. In Hannah’s case, her inner, warped conflict is to fight her father’s will or embrace it.
Indie Rights Films and MVDVisual distributes the StorySolver Film Lab production to DVD in a stunning 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. Details look fantastic from the farm landscapes to the skin tones with no sign of touch up enhancements such as cropping, sharpening, or smoothing. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track clearly balanced and diversifies all sub-tracks, especially the ambient sounds of the rural atmosphere to set an looming setting. There are no subtitle or settings options, nor do extras exist. Only “play” or “chapters” line the menu title. “Rows” has a sizable underlining gloom about it, setting a rightfully impassive mood through the spell world Rose is thrusted into combating.