There is something about maternal love gone awry which makes an awesome premise for a horror film. From MOTHER’S DAY, AMERICAN GOTHIC to HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE there is just an inherent creepiness about the paranoid fears of parenthood and the reality of mad mothering which frightens each of us on an almost genetic level, even those of us such as me who have no (known) children and really don’t care for them, truth be told. From Cheezy Flicks, distributors of such desirable, horror film themed items such as Horror movie girlie calendars and Pin up girls based on classic movie archetypes is another product that frightens the inner child in all of us and makes him with want to wet ourselves and cry out in the abject fright of pure horror that one never outgrows.
Like all horror films this one starts out with a calm and serene moment that suddenly gets tense, frightful and more than a little unsettling.
Sally Skelding is a grandmother who has been a real, licensed Child Psychologist for many years. In a brief soliloquy to the camera she lets you the viewer know that she is going to show us how to handle babies to help them grow and develop. It is then that a telltale horn honks and Sally grins evilly as the poor helpless baby, (her own grandbaby in fact) is about to be left in her care, with no witnesses except you, the unfortunate viewer. Cue sinister calliope music here…
Because she is ever the sadist, Sally states how she made a deliberate attempt to force a smile and explains the importance of this upon first contact (as any salesman or confident predator). Sally seems to relish the goodbye between her daughter and her grandchild encouraging that the “Julian” knows he is he is about to be left alone in the care of Skelding with no possible avenue of escape. She insists that the mother not only announces that she is leaving but that that she firmly tells the baby that she is leaving to make the absence of the birth caregiver all the more horrific. Slipping out is simply not allowed! She also wants a full report of the babies eating and sleeping schedule and routine which I am assuming is so she can manipulate and torment the young helpless infant left in her charge though sleep deprivation or diet manipulation as it makes them more susceptible to brainwashing, a favorite trick of any religious cult.
Once the mother, (her daughter) has left, Julian the baby is left to play on the floor (left unattended) of course. As any true child abuser, Sally is quick to justify her actions. It seems open play is a way to develop muscles which is a skill young Julian will likely need later in life to outrun his creepy “handsy” Grandmother. From there it is off to the pillow play pit where the child is placed in a makeshift pillow obstacle course where every move is a frustrating, impossible labor designed to break a baby’s spirit early in life. Suddenly the mental games ensue; one of Sally’s favorite tricks as manipulative game master is to place a giant mirror so the baby may interact, become acquainted with an synchronized, sycophantic twin that he will one day realize whose entire existence was a horrible lie.
Of course there is some talk of toys and sally seems to delight in cheap mass produced battery operated toys (usually from China) that make loud, repetitive and shrill sounds actually that may damage young kids hearing (according to many Recent Consumer Product Commission Recalls). Sally seems to delight in this all particular form of interactive plaything, which emit electronic sound and fury signifying nothing which at the very least will predestine young Julian for a life of Slot Machine addictions It should be noted that despite the fact that she believes children should be amused with simple gadgets, Sally does not let young Julian watch TV whatsoever. This extremism is most upsetting of all to my artistic sensibility, because I feel that only a trained movie critic should be allowed to decide what movies and television shows anyone of whatever age should be viewing. This blanket ban on film on television is censorship at its worst; brainwashing of the Nanny State at its most literal. Case in point, I personally was born to a neglectful mother who never loved me whatsoever and was raised exclusively by a TV from the moment I could hold my head erect as a toddler to see the screen and just look at me now…
And then the real horror begins, it is time to change the baby. Sally encourages you to let the baby smell the messy diaper in order to become acquainted firsthand with the smell of filth. Once again, not a single plot opportunity to indoctrinate her small human victim with the horrors of human weakness, or biological unpleasantness is ever discounted. The carefully staged symbolism of this particular heart breaking scene is clear to any viewer or trained child psychologist, “This is you, you are shit”.
At long last Julian’s Mother returns none the wiser that her kid has been fiddled, fussed with and misprogrammed by corrupt old fingers more times more than a VCR in a nursing home’s common room. There is suggestion of a future visit by Julian, but I don’t think a sequel is likely. I have to say that I absolutely loved this film. The evil, meddling character of Sally Skelding makes her a believable evil control freak reminiscent of Terry O’Quinn in THE STEPFATHER. Indeed, this entire film seems reminiscent of vintage horror films from the eighties which were themselves a modern continuation of classic urban legends of bygone eras such as “the hook” that showed young audiences firsthand the perils of engaging in sexual intercourse.
This film absolutely terrified me long after it had ended because the mere thought of these terrible routines becoming part of my everyday life made me reexamine the importance of safe sex in my own life in much the same way that HALLOWEEN made me look under my bed before going to sleep or JAWS made me never want to swim in the ocean.
Buy it at your own risk.