Mother May I is the late summer horror kick in the pants that I needed. Pairing it up with a viewing of Cobweb this upcoming weekend will settle nicely for those that don’t want to watch Barbie or Oppenheimer. So, what can you expect from a tale about a nice engaged couple exploring a farmhouse the guy inherited from his dead mother? Well, if flesh bound books from found under cabins in Tennessee have taught me…anything is possible.
Kyle Gallner is starring in a ton of my new favorite films
Kyle Gallner has been around for a bit, but Dinner in America is the newest cult film to get actual foot track and not internet buzz. I buy him as the hurt and distraught Emmett in ways I don’t necessarily afford to his co-star Holland Roden. Which is weird because I feel that Roden does most of the heavy lifting in Mother May I. Even if a ton of it is in quack psych science scenes that seem to be of a plot setup than supportive narrative tool.
The chair reversals and seeming possessions work for a COVID movie on a small budget. However, what do they do for the audience making sense of it? Mommy issues on an indie budget aren’t that hard to sell to Joe Public. What’s hard is finding an angle to make them care about it? From an intellectual standpoint, it’s covered. But, as a movie? Confusion abounds.
How modern horror works
Modern horror is almost embarrassed to be about the supernaturals and killer monsters anymore. Even the Scream relaunch poked fun at the auspice of Elevated Horror and how everything has to be an intellectual pursuit. As I explained Mother May I to the old people I watched Sound of Freedom with, they kept asking me if it was a ghost movie. I explained in a way because we’re all haunted by the ghost of parental trauma.
Boomers not in therapy can’t understand that. It’s a mirror version of how teenagers and kids can’t understand that. Hell, the one AMC worker that walked by during all of this directly asked me IS IT A GHOST MOVIE OR NOT? The answer is nope. David Lowery made a ghost movie a few years back that treaded into the same arena and did a better job on a similar if not slightly larger budget.
Modern horror works by trying to act like monsters and supernatural activities don’t exist. Only the trauma that informs our personal bullshit and how we let it define our relationships.
What did I take away from Mother May I?
Mother May I achieved something that I loved. It showed me new promise from a director that I still don’t know how to approach. After looking through my notes, I found that we had reviewed a movie called Vera a few years ago from Director Laurence Vannicelli. It didn’t make a big impression on me, but apparently I enjoyed it from what I wrote down.
Cut to 2023 and I’m watching Mother May I and I’m wondering if I missed something in the prior film. The tiny cast, the intimate setting and the focus on two people throughout the entirety of Mother May I asks a lot. Hell, some will go out of their way to make comparisons to Ti West. I feel that is not apt, as West still owes much of his approach to the exploitation fare of the 1970s.
Ultimately, horror works when it appeals to your inner nature
The facts behind what works with Horror is you have to buy into something that scares you and is greater than the mundane. Out of my QAnon senior citizen friends and the young usher I met that day, none of them could buy into my pitch for Mother May I at any level. I even told them the movie would be available on VOD on Friday. Then, I had to explain to them what VOD was.
There are many stories to be told in the world and room enough for all of them. But, we live in an embarrassment of riches among a nation of the bored. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Mother May I, there is enough there for me to appreciate in regards to the acting, writing and directing. The history of cinema is made up of more movies that almost got there, but didn’t quite stick the landing.
Masterpieces are few and far between, but our world is made up of the stories that tickle our fancy and push us into watching more and more movies. Try something different this weekend and watch Mother May I.